MATT O’CONNOR’S DECISION to promote Ian Madigan to Leinster’s starting out-half for their away clash to Northampton took most onlookers by surprise.
New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth settled in rapidly at his new club and earned reams of praise from O’Connor after his initial Heineken Cup forays in October. Saturday’s performance, however, was Leinster at their swashbuckling best. It was their most fluid outing since they put 34 points on Cardiff in September. The starting out-half that evening — Ian Madigan.
“It was a massive vote of confidence for Matt to pick me for this one,” Madigan told TheScore.ie. “I was under no illusions that it was a big game for me. I was very grateful for the team; they made it very easy for me.
“I got a great platform off the pack. Eoin gave me fantastic service all day and the backs outside me made it very clear what they wanted; it was just up to me to execute it.”
“We certainly weren’t expecting [the 12-0 start],” Madigan added. “We thought it would be a very tough and tight game but once things went our way at the start, it forced them to chase things… we probably had more setpieces than we would have expected and that gave us a platform.
We certainly weren’t going over there to kick the leather off the ball. We were going there to play and that worked out well for us.”
Saturday’s bonus point win over the Saints at Franklin’s Gardens sets them up to top the table and claim a home quarter final at the Aviva. Another emphatic win over the English side will all but guarantee top spot with an away game against Castres the trickiest chicane to negotiate.
Madigan, however, is wary of Northampton’s ability to bounce back from a home defeat. Saints recovered from a hefty home loss to Ulster last season to down Mark Anscombe’s men at Ravenhill the following week. The out-half says his teammates are well aware of the fate that befell Ulster last season.
“We’re very aware of that and are determined that history won’t repeat itself… They’re a team who have great pride and they’ll be looking to get that back for them, and for their supporters,” said Madigan.
Leinster tore Saints apart thanks to quick ball secured at the breakdown and a backline uncorking the 2011/12 vintage. Skills coach Richie Murphy points out that Leinster made more than 140 tackles against Saints but were clinical when chances came their way. Madigan agrees and insists the script will not change too much ahead of the rematch.
“It’s no secret that this team thrives off quick ball,” he declared. “Northampton will be coming over to deprive us of that but we know that if we get that right, there’s no reason why we won’t click on the day.”
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