The 27-year-old joins Bordeaux-Begles in the summer
Leinster fly-half Ian Madigan is preparing for his last two months in Leinster colours.
The Irish international has a maximum of four games left for his native province before he moves to France to join Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles. Madigan's move to the south-west of France was confirmed in December with the 27-year-old signing a two-year deal.
Johnny Sexton's return to Leinster this season after his Parisian sojourn has seen Madigan's playing time at the RDS severely hampered. Speaking at the launch of the Ulster Bank League's 'Drop Kick for your Club' initiative, the former Blackrock College star revealed being the first choice number ten for the first time in his career was a major reason for the move.
"It’s not purely a rugby decision. It’s a life decision as well. I don’t think I’d be able to look at myself in the mirror and not have challenged myself to be that first choice out-half in a club when my career ended. I was presented with the opportunity to do that in Bordeaux. It might not necessarily work but I’m going to do everything in my power to make it work. It’s a rugby decision but it’s also a lifestyle decision because I’m looking at the bigger picture as well."
Madigan's hopes of playing for Ireland for the coming two years depends on head coach Joe Schmidt, as the Dubliner will not be allowed leave the Bordeaux camp outside the allotted international windows. Despite potentially hampering his international hopes, the 29-times capped star hopes the move to France will actually improve his playing chances for Ireland.
"Part of the reason I am moving to Bordeaux is to improve myself as a player and to prolong my international career. So I think moving to Bordeaux, challenging myself, new players, new coaches, new league. I am going to improve myself as a player. I am still young enough that I can continue hopefully playing for Ireland while I am there is selected and continue to play for Ireland."
"Whereas I feel if I stay where I am at the moment, I don't deserve to be representing Ireland. If I am not starting for my club then there is other guys who are going to be starting in the other Irish provinces that given time and experience they are going to pass me out."
The comparisons between his move to Bordeaux and Sexton's move to Racing 92 are striking, and Madigan has taken advantage of the Lions star's knowledge of the French game. "It's maybe slightly different to the way you can be with the Irish players, because Johnny has grown up with a lot of the guys he plays with in Leinster. He can talk very directly to them, and that's fine, and it's water off a duck's back at the end of a session."
"Maybe when he started in France, that same approach wasn't as expected, or what the French guys were used to, and Johnny adapted his game to that as his time went on in France. But for him to give me that information before I go over, I know that maybe the arm around a shoulder when I'm asking a player to do something, I might get a more positive reaction than barking at them."
Despite the move and all the cultural differences the move to France brings, the fly-half is already preparing for the move, especially the language barrier. "Once I made a decision to move to Bordeaux, I made out a clear plan of how I was going to learn the language. I’ve done a 12-week course. Currently, I’m doing two one-on-one sessions for one-and-a-half hours-a-week. Then, I’ve got homework in-between."
Two of Madigan's six starts for Ireland came at last year's World Cup. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Away from the tuition, Madigan is getting help closer to home. “My mum is a fluent French speaker. When I’m over in the house, she gives me a few things to dust up on. I am far from fluent. But, I will do my best to be able to converse in French when I get over there. Once I do that, and I can hang out with the French players, I will be able to speak fluently quite quickly as opposed to going over there and having to hang out with the English-speaking players and get everything translated for me. That would hold me back."
It's clear from speaking to Madigan, that the leadership role he was been assured by Bordeaux when signing is something he craves. Improving as a player and prolonging his international career is something he feels that will hopefully come as a result of the move. Despite earning 29-caps for Ireland, only six of those have come from the opening whistle. In his ideal world, life in the Top 14 will change that.
Former Blackrock College RFC star Ian Madigan launched a new club rugby initiative, ‘Drop Kick for your Club’, which will take place at half time during the Ulster Bank League Final in the Aviva Stadium on Sunday 8th May. Ulster Bank is calling on players around the country to enter for a chance to drop-kick and win €10,000 for their club. Each contestant will receive €2,500 for their club just for taking part and if someone lands the kick, a further €10,000 will be donated to their club. If more than one kicker is successful the prize will be shared. For full details and to enter check out www.facebook.com/UlsterBankRugby