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Zebo insists Madigan has quality to play variety of roles for Ireland in World Cup

By Nick Purewal

Ireland have "no fears" of facing Rugby World Cup action with Ian Madigan as a makeshift scrum-half, according to Simon Zebo.

Head coach Joe Schmidt has gambled on selecting just two scrum-halves in his final 31-man squad, opting to retrain fly-half Madigan as back-up to Conor Murray and Eoin Reddan.

Versatile playmaker Madigan can comfortably operate at 10, 12 and 15, but has never yet worn nine on his back.

An injury to one of Ireland's regular scrum-halves less than 48 hours away from a World Cup clash could change all that.

"I'm sure Ian will be well up for it, he's a talented boy," said Munster wing Zebo of Madigan's positional switch. "You could put him in anywhere and he'd go through it with ease. We have no fears of him going in there."

Ireland face England at Twickenham on Saturday in their final World Cup warm-up clash, before opening their Pool D campaign against Canada in Cardiff on September 19.

Schmidt has hedged the risk of selecting two scrum-halves against the ease and speed with which either Isaac Boss or Kieran Marmion could arrive at the World Cup in the event of injury.

That theory runs into trouble when set against the regulation that teams are not permitted to make injury replacements less than 48 hours away from a match.

Should one of Murray or Reddan run into trouble then, Madigan will be thrust into scrum-half deputy duty.

Madigan's jinking feint and cute switch-pass sent Zebo in for an astute try in Ireland's 28-22 Dublin win over Scotland last month.

Zebo believes it is in those defence-unlocking moments where Madigan outlines the natural aptitude for subbing in at nine.

"He's just a natural footballer - he goes out and expresses himself," said Zebo. "No matter where he is, he's dangerous."

Schmidt spent Sunday night calling the players who had missed the World Cup cut, with Zebo relieved not to see the coach's number light up on his phone. The 25-year-old has made Ireland's final squad at the expense of close friend Felix Jones, but Zebo has been at pains not to console his Munster team-mate.

"I haven't spoken to Felix," said Zebo. "He's one of my best friends. He doesn't want any sympathy, he wants to put his head down and work hard for Munster."

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