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Ulster's Jared Payne can be key to Ireland World Cup success

By Jonathan Bradley

Ireland's Ian Madigan feels that Ulster's Jared Payne could be the man to make Joe Schmidt's backline tick at next month's World Cup.

Payne started outside Madigan in last weekend's 28-22 win over Scotland with the stand-off praising the contribution of the naturalised Kiwi while comparing him to compatriot and returning Leinster favourite Isa Nacewa.

"Jared is kind of one of those characters, very like Isa Nacewa, he's one of those guys who makes the right decision nearly all the time," said Madigan.

"If he's sending you information you just do it because you know he's going to be right the majority of the time. He's an absolute pleasure to play with.

"He gives you time on the ball and just let's you know what he wants you to execute and it's just a matter of going out and doing it for him."

With Ireland's World Cup squad set to be finalised in less than two weeks, Madigan's impressive showing at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday could spell bad news for Payne's Ulster's team-mate Paddy Jackson in the contest to provide back-up for starting number ten Johnny Sexton.

It was the Dubliner's 20th cap, but just his fourth start, and he set down a marker in the second-half, creating a score for Simon Zebo with some delightful flat passing before an inch perfect cross-kick was gathered by Luke Fitzgerald for the winning try.

On the battle for squad places, Madigan added: "It's pretty intense across the board.

"You've got a minimum of two players in each position, three in some.

"Johnny, Paddy and myself are going really hard at it in training, competing hard for every rep and there's definitely a feeling that every rep counts.

"I'm sure Johnny will get his chance now in the next two games and, in fairness to him, he's been going really well in pre-season. I think he's really enjoying having the longest pre-season he's had in a good few seasons and I'm sure he'll hit the ground running."

The 26-year-old Madigan's versatility could be a telling factor in the competition and he affirmed that he is equally comfortable at centre having appeared there frequently for his province last season.

"I'd love to get a run anywhere," he said.

"There's such competition you just want to put your hand up anywhere. The way I am, if I'm playing at centre or out-half or full-back or scrum-half or wherever, I'm just happy to get out there.

"What's important is starting big games, whether it's at out-half or first centre. It's more beneficial than being a substitute out-half, being a starting centre.

"The way the game has gone, you need your first centre to be able to move into that first handling position and be able to read and control the game as well."

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