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Ian Madigan pinpoints what Leinster are missing in 2024

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Wednesday Jun 5, 2024

Former Leinster, Ulster and Ireland flyhalf Ian Madigan knows what it takes to win an Investec Champions Cup title.

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The 35-year-old won two European Cup titles and two Pro 12 Championships during his time with the men in blue before departing for Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles and later English Premiership side Bristol.

Returning to Ireland in 2020 when he joined Ulster, Madigan is uniquely placed to comment on Leinster as both a former player and rival of the side.

Discussing Leinster’s recent Investec Champions Cup final loss to Toulouse, their third final loss in a row. Madigan highlighted former captain Johnny Sexton’s retirement as a key factor in Leinster’s narrow loss.

“We missed Johnny at the weekend,” Madigan said of the Champions Cup final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“You can break down the individual parts of the game. Was it his passing we missed? Or his goal-kicking?

“Ultimately, Johnny’s a winner, and he finds a way to win.

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“It’s the influence that he has on the players around him, the opposition and the referee.

“There were a few moments in that game, you know. I think back to like early on, when Caelen Doris ships a high shot from Willis. Had Johnny been on the pitch that gets reviewed, you know, and the edge that Johnny brings you.

“Think back to that big moment Leinster had. Attack after attack, turn the ball over to lose, hack it downfield, Hugo Keenan and van der Flier do a counterattack, and Josh gets carried out into touch.”

Pointing out that whilst the backrow was getting carried over the touchline, Leinster had grounds to appeal foul play which ultimately went unchallenged.

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“It was such a big moment in the game. But if you look at it, Josh is getting headlocked by Malia as he’s getting carried over the touchline.

“If Johnny’s there or Sean O’Brien’s there, we’re seeing a big reaction, just kind of performative in front of the referee to the referee look at this,” Madigan said.

Whilst Sexton’s relationship with match officials was well documented, Madigan felt his presence and persistence could have put some level of doubt into the match officials’ minds about certain incidents.

“You need a reaction for the referee to go or the TMO to go. Jesus, something must have happened there. Why did that player react, and you go? Oh well, he was getting choked out. He was getting head locked as he was going over the touchline.

“So, it’s those big moments. Johnny’s ability to be on every single moment in a game was something that probably wasn’t spoken about a whole lot but was an unbelievable strength of his. He just had his finger on the pulse for 80 minutes, which is a very rare thing as well, I’d imagine, in any league.

“It’s just the ferocious competitiveness that Johnny brought and that will to win.”

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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