FOLLOWING THE WORLD CUP in 2011, Fergus McFadden returned from his supporting role with Ireland and began to place-kick with regularity for Leinster.
Over the course of the season he contributed 104 points from the boot and, at one stage, his kicking stats were a shade over 92%.
With the confusion over Ireland’s first-choice outhalf, one could argue that McFadden be told to prime himself for his first international kicks at sticks and allow Paddy Jackson or Ian Madigan to concentrate on purely playing their position.
In all likelihood, Declan Kidney went straight from yesterday’s media briefings to whatever part of Carton House Jackson was in and told the 21-year-old that he would be wearing 10 on Saturday.
McFadden’s kicking contribution for Leinster this season reads like this: two conversions, one penalty, seven points. Speaking about the trust the sporting public have placed in him, McFadden told TheScore.ie:
I’d like to think that a bring a bit more to the equation than that. Obviously, Paddy is the first-choice kicker so we’ve got full confidence in him.
“He has kicked on big occasions, on numerous times, for Ulster and done well. If I’m called upon to kick, I’m more than confident to do that but, as it stands, Paddy is kicking.”
Apart from the Scotland match, when he kicked one from four, Jackson’s biggest matches with the boot have been in the Heineken Cup – Castres at home [eight from nine], Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens [two from seven] and the return tie with the Saints [three from four].
Changing of the guard
Stating his preference for playing on the wing with Leinster and Ireland this season, McFadden admits it has been difficult to find peace with his infrequent starts in the green jersey.
“It’s not all rosy in sport,” he admits, “but I’ve bided my time when I wasn’t picked at the start and my chance has come now in a really big game… I just have to stake my claim now that maybe I should have been there from the start.”
McFadden, playing on the right wing, scored a try at Lansdowne Road, against the French, in only his second cap back on 13 February 2011.
His provincial form has been good this season and he was arguably Leinster’s best player in the back and forth Heineken Cup ties with Clermont.
“To be honest,” he said, “when decisions didn’t go my way in here I was just looking forward to getting out and playing games. To me, there’s nothing more frustrating than training week-in, week-out and not getting the game time.”
McFadden is enthused about ‘the young spine’ Ireland now have and agrees that there has been a significant changing of the guard. He said:
There’s been a bit of a clean-out of players either through injury or some guys maybe not playing at the same level they were for years. It’s just the nature of [rugby] really.”
The Kilkenny native is eager to prove that he is the man to finish the chances that Ireland are creating, hopefully by crossing for tries than replacing an outhalf that was missed a couple of kicks at goal.