Belfast Telegraph

Madigan holds key to Bordeaux's plans for domination

By Michael Sadlier

It's all a work in progress at Bordeaux-Begles. They're not quite at the top table when it comes to mixing with the Top 14's big guns, and they don't possess much at all in the way of a European record, but they are moving towards overturning both issues.

As ever, the drive for Top 14 success is the priority, but there is a definite desire to also make a breakthrough in the Champions Cup particularly after last season when they finished as runners-up in what turned out to be an incredibly tight pool with winners Exeter Chiefs, Bordeaux and the Ospreys all finishing on 16 points while Clermont ended up bottom with 15.

And with Bordeaux head coach Raphael Ibanez having triumphed in the then Heineken Cup with Wasps, back in 2007, there is an added incentive around to push on and make the knockout stages for the first time in what will only be the club's fourth season in Europe's premier contest.

Mind you, the fact that Bordeaux are pretty much in a replicated pool to last season - Ulster being the only newcomers - prompted Ibanez's response of "We thought 'Not again' when we saw the draw".

So far, they are faring well in the Top 14 and have won their last three games to sit in fifth spot with only one home defeat being inflicted on them by Montpellier.

Europe, of course, is an entirely different matter but Bordeaux - who have former Italy coach Jacques Brunel in a backroom team which includes Emile Ntamack and Joe Worsley - go into this campaign looking stronger and with a better balance to the side.

The arrival of Ian Madigan, who starts tomorrow in what is a pivotal looking clash with Paddy Jackson, has been a bonus with the Ireland player having the hugely experienced Lionel Beauxis as back-up.

Madigan is the key man for Bordeaux and his all-round game can only be beneficial to their backline which includes the currently electric Wallaby winger Adam Ashley-Cooper who scored a hat-trick of tries recently against Lyon.

New signing Luke Jones has also beefed up their pack with the Wallaby playing tomorrow at blindside flanker with number eight Loann Goujon and openside Hugh Chalmers in a back-row with ball-carrying on their minds.

Jandre Marais is in his usual place at the heart of the engine room and skippers the side - veteran Tom Palmer is on the bench - while Ibanez has gone for a still pretty fearsome front row of Vadim Cobilas, Clement Maynadier and Jefferson Poirot.

If Madigan clicks, then Bordeaux's work in progress can take another step forward.

Belfast Telegraph


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