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Madigan delight at switch to Bristol but relegation on cards

By Ruaidhri O’Connor

If Ian Madigan plays any rugby in Ireland next season, it looks likely to be as part of the Bristol team competing in the British and Irish Cup.

Less than two years since he started a World Cup quarter-final at out-half for his country, the 27-year-old looks set to spend at least a year in the second tier of English rugby unless the West Country club can turn their season around and escape relegation.

Madigan’s time at Bordeaux Begles will come to a close after one unhappy season and he has signed a lucrative three-year deal to join Pat Lam and All Black Steven Luatua at Bristol next season.

“The opportunity to come to England and prove myself here is one that I relish,” Madigan said.

“Bristol has a clear vision for what they want to achieve and the club’s philosophy match my own ambitions. I know the expansive style of rugby that Pat and his coaching team want to play and that excites me.

“I was so impressed with the vision that was laid out to me, it made it an easy decision to commit to Bristol.”

Madigan turned down a move to Bristol in favour of moving to Bordeaux in 2015, citing the fact that the club were playing in the second tier.

They won promotion at the end of that season, but are currently seven points adrift at the foot of the table and staring relegation in the face.

“I certainly wouldn’t be looking to play in the Championship,” he said at the time.

“If you did decide to move to a club like Bristol, you’re taking a massive risk in them not getting promoted.

“That would definitely factor into my decision, if I was considering going there.

“Having been in such a fantastic club like Leinster, you’re used to competing and winning competitions. That’s the way I’ve always been.

“I’d great success even as a kid playing with Kilmacud Crokes. I was lucky that I was on good schools teams in Blackrock. I play sport to win competitions, and to win medals. That’s why I’m in this business.”

The format for promotion and relegation to and from England’s Premiership will change next season with the current play-off making way for a straight one-up, one down system, making life less precarious for the biggest clubs.

Madigan’s old club Leinster, meanwhile, continued to build towards next season with the capture of winger James Lowe of the Waikato Chiefs.

The Maori All Black, who played against Munster in November, will join at the end of the Mitre 10 tournament in the autumn replacing South African Zane Kirchner who will depart at the end of this season.

Under the current World Rugby rules, the highly-rated 24-year-old could become Irish qualified in 2020 although those regulations could change this summer.

Meanwhile, Munster have sent Ian Keatley and Francis Saili for scans on the injuries they suffered last weekend.

Keatley suffered a knee injury, while Saili picked up an unspecified leg problem and both players are now in a race to be fit for the province’s European Champions Cup quarter-final against Toulouse on April 4.

Gloucester’s former Ulster prop John Afoa will face a disciplinary hearing after being charged with a dangerous tackle on Harlequins’ Tim Swiel.

Afoa is alleged to have made a dangerous tackle on Swiel in the first half of Gloucester’s 30-27 Aviva Premiership defeat at Kingsholm on Saturday.

Afoa will appear before a three-person RFU disciplinary panel chaired by Gareth Graham in Bristol on Tuesday, March 7 (6.30pm).

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