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Impressive Ian Madigan puts himself in frame for World Cup call

By David Kelly

In Joe Schmidt's world, the scream of the individual is almost always drowned out by the incessant whispering of the selfless team player.

For him, there is little virtue in the self-centred regard of a man who deems the mere act of pressing a button to call a lift with the satisfaction of one who thinks he has performed a great deed.

"He's really big on the unseen work," confides Ian Madigan. "The guy who decides to hit the ruck and get a deep clean, not the guy who gets the ball off the nine and runs around the corner and scores the try."

Schmidt, perhaps, was alone in praising the endeavour of the opening half when most neutrals may have preferred to seek the sanctuary of the bar; yet only he knows that the incessant pounding of the Georgian spirit then would ultimately cause it to sunder completely later.

This game was effectively broken when its quality - in neutral eyes - plunged to a nadir; instead of slinking off at 6-0, Ireland played on, snatched a lineout and forced a play that reduced their opponents to 14 men and stole a 9-0 lead on the whistle of half-time.

For this was a day when selfless service had to master selfish motivation; Ireland's out-half in a much-changed team but an utterly unchanged environment of insistent devotion to minute detail bore the responsibility well.

Madigan, for whom the number 10 has been an all too rare habitat in a difficult period at Leinster, marshalled the game, for the most part, superbly.

"One of my big roles as an out-half, whether with Leinster or Ireland, is to facilitate other players and try to make other players look good," he explains. "And I tried to do that today."

Amidst the collective failures early on, when anxiety militated against the simple compilation of phases and protection of possession, Madigan at times faltered too but ultimately his consistency shone like a beacon.

While the back-row and three-quarters often failed them, Ireland were prompted, a couple of overly long punts aside, with consistent alertness by Madigan; his grubber for the opening score was not headline-grabbing; it was, rather, the essence of the day's unfolding story.

Schmidt's private thoughts on Madigan's obstruction at Leinster will, presumably, remain thus.

The conundrum remains that Ireland have two qualified out-halves who are first-choice for their province but both - Paddy Jackson and Ian Keatley - have been evicted by a man who is, more often than not, second-choice out-half at his province.

Yesterday, at least, provided comprehensive evidence that the Blackrock man can fulfil his duty as Jonny Sexton's deputy, a position he suddenly assumed when Jackson was peremptorily demoted ahead of the championship decider in Paris last spring.

At this stage, he is a World Cup certainty; both as the primary out-half back-up and a valuable utility three-quarter.

A first-choice second-choice. Not something that should please a selfish player. But in a selfless environment, it must. He is asked if a start against Australia is feasible - highly unlikely with Sexton on the beat - and defers.

"You always hope that you'll be selected and for me it's about putting up my hand for contention," he said. "It's great to get 80 minutes in my favourite position. Like I've said before, I'll play in whatever position I'm selected.

"I've had to play a few games in midfield and full-back but I really enjoyed playing at out-half today and I want to build on that."

When many struggled to reach the standards demanded by the coach, Madigan's quiet effectiveness rose from a whisper to a scream.

Belfast Telegraph

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