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Zebo: Madigan could work at No 9
02 Sep 2015 12:12
Ireland have "no fears" of facing Rugby World Cup action with Ian Madigan as a makeshift scrum-half, according to Simon Zebo.
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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.
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Versatile playmaker Madigan can comfortably operate at 10, 12 and 15, but has never yet worn nine on his back.
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An injury to one of Ireland's regular scrum-halves 48 hours or less away from a World Cup clash could change all that though, with Madigan then stepping up to break new ground.
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"I'm sure Ian will be well up for it, he's a talented boy," said Munster wing Zebo of Madigan's positional switch.
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"You could put him in anywhere and he'd go through it with ease and confidence.
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"You'd have no fears of him going in there."
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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 19 September.
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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.
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That theory runs into trouble when set against the regulation that teams are not permitted to make injury replacements 48 hours or less away from a match.
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Should one of Murray or Reddan run into trouble one training session away from action then, Madigan will be thrust into scrum-half deputy duty.
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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.
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Zebo believes it is in those defence-unlocking moments where Madigan outlines the natural aptitude for subbing in at nine.
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"I haven't seen him train there too much to be honest. He's probably been doing his own thing," said Zebo.
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"He'll love it if he's called to go in at nine, he'll have no issues.
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"He's just a natural footballer: he goes out and expresses himself.
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"He's very talented and no matter where he is, as long as he has his hands on the ball he's dangerous and effective."
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Schmidt spent Sunday night calling the unlucky players who had missed the World Cup cut, with Zebo relieved not to see the head coach's number light up on his phone.
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The 25-year-old wing 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.
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"I haven't spoken to Felix, I've left it alone," said Zebo.
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"He's one of my best friends up here. I know what he's like as a person, I know he doesn't want any sympathy, he just wants to put his head down now and work hard for Munster.
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"I don't think I've ever refreshed my email so much in my life, just hoping for something to pop up, but Sunday was a long old day.
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"I spent it wisely by chilling out with my family, trying to get them to take my mind off things, and thankfully it worked out well."
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