Madigan getting his kicks

10/06/2013

@AdamRedmond reports from Tornoto, Canada

IT'S official that Ian Madigan is now a Test rugby out half and during this tour so far the young Dubliner has been as engaging in conversation off the pitch as he is on it.

 
On Friday morning he ratcheted up the pressure on himself by insisting that reputations were on the line for Ireland in a refreshing change of pace. 
 
The 24-year-old is both intelligent and succinct and he spoke confidently before and after the USA game about the pressures placed on out halves at provincial and international level.
 
The Leinster playmaker has been carefully managed by his province which has led him to this point in his career and he is determined to ensure he is not a "flash in the pan" No 10. The patience he displayed during Saturday night's game, where there was very little flow ball, proved that he is more than capable of stepping up to Test level.
 
"The thing with Test match rugby is that your mistakes are going to be magnified," he said 24 hours before his debut. "I do have a slight tendency to pull the trigger a little early at times. I wouldn't quite have the patience that Jonny [Sexton] has - Jonny could wait until there's a definite four-on-two for example and then he'll pull the trigger and he'll be gone. Whereas I might have only wait for one or two phases and it might be a four-on-three or a five-on-four. I'll try and make a play then. 
 
"[Les Kiss] has just backed me that the pack we have going out this week, we can be patient. They will grind it out for us. If I'm patient behind that and if I do pull the trigger, it will hopefully have good effect and we'll get a clean line break."
 
Part of the management process at Leinster meant that Madigan was not required to act as the front-line goal kicker during his first two seasons. This, kicking coach Richie Murphy explained, was to ensure that he could concentrate on his other duties at out half as Leinster had the luxury of relying on Isa Nacewa and Fergus McFadden to place kick.
 
"Two years ago I was trying to take a lot of long-range kicks when Fergus was playing or Jonny was playing and they'd let me have the odd long-range one which can effect your stats," said of his lower conversion rate in previous seasons.
 
"The way I have got to high percentages this year is through really hard work. Richie Murphy has built a technique that allows me to know what I've done wrong if I've missed a kick. So it's easily correctable. If I miss a kick left for example I'll know it's one of two things: that I didn't go through the ball or that I didn't stay tall. If I miss a kick right, it generally means my left foot was too close to the ball. 
 
"So when you're in a match situation and you miss a kick, it's a real confidence thing. If you know what you've done wrong and you can correct it for the next kick, I think it's a massive string to add to your bow. 
 
"Another thing is I've probably taken a few yards off the length of my kick. So for example a kick that was 30 yards, I used to kick it like it was a 50-yard kick. Whereas now, I don't quite kick the ball as hard. I can still do the long distance ones if needs be. Two years ago I would have had pretty much one technique for all kicks - now I have three techniques: I've a short technique for short kicks, a middle-range technique for middle-range kicks and then if needs be, for 50 metres or 55 metres, I can go to a long-range technique."   
 
The recognition of that hard work has come in the form of the Rhino Golden Boot award at this year's RaboDirect PRO12 end of season awards. Madigan knocked over 60 kicks from 69 attempts for a remarkable conversion percentage of 86.96.
 
On Saturday at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium he slotted five from six kicks, but admitted he had been forced to adapt once more because of a variant in the type of Gilbert ball that was chosen by the hosts.
 
"It's a lighter Gilbert. It's not like the one they use in the Six Nations. The one they use in the Six Nations has got more weight to it, it flies a lot further and it holds its line a lot truer whereas this ball is lighter and the sweet spot is a lot smaller on it so if you don't catch them you can get a quite a funny fly. There were a few weird dropped balls," he explained after the game..
 
Now that he has ascended to become a Test starter for Ireland, Madigan is keen to improve and just as hungry to establish himself for his country.
 
"Absolutely. I probably bigged up the pressure on myself a small bit before the game - I'd like to think I stepped up to it. I didn't set the world alight by any means but a good solid game. I showed I'm not a flash-in-the-pan 10, I can do the basics to a good standard," he added. 
 
@AdamRedmond

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