Praise for Fergus McFadden is a regular thing here on the pages of The Touchline, but the simple fact is that the 25-year-old is having a superb season for Leinster. His display against the Ospreys on Friday night showed exactly why he should have been starting at 12 for Ireland during the Six Nations. Gordon D’Arcy had a predictably disappointing tournament and he has been on the decline for the last year at least.
Despite some intermittent flashes of his old self, the 32-year-old has been far from his best for Leinster and the time has come to replace him at both provincial and international level. McFadden is his obvious and deserving successor, as proven by his performance against the Ospreys. He was as busy as usual with ball in hand, making several half-breaks as well as some other strong carries in traffic. He almost scored in the 56th minute after dummying and using his strong fend to break the Ospreys’ defence. Richard Fussell did well to haul him down.
Much has been made of McFadden’s missed tackle on George North in the Six Nations opener against Wales. It was a spectacular one and isn’t easy to forget, but that incident was far from the norm for the Kilkenny man. It wasn’t even McFadden’s tackle to make; he was forced to step in due to D’Arcy’s failure to take his man. Against the Ospreys, McFadden’s defensive game was solid, with one stand-out hit on Jason Tipuric just before half time, where he drove the Welsh international 5 metres backwards.
His place kicking was a little less smooth than usual, although he still converted 6 from 8. The best effort of the night came from inside Leinster’s half. McFadden’s routine off the tee is best described as unfussy. He certainly takes less time than other leading place-kickers but he consistently gets the job done. He is the PRO12’s most accurate place-kicker and will look to continue the massive improvements he has made in this area. Having him alongside Sexton for Ireland would also leave us with a proven goal-kicker on the field if Ian Madigan were to be used off the bench.
McFadden was clearly motivated to show what he offers after a frustrating Six Nations spent mainly on the bench. Another highlight of his performance was the booming 70m clearance kick out of Leinster’s 22 in the first half. It was a beautiful spiral and showed how hard the centre is working on his core skills. His ever-improving handling also showed up well as himself and Madigan worked a smart loop to release Nacewa earlier in the game.
All the signs this season point to a player who is working hard to improve himself and is really starting to peak. At the other end of the scale, D’Arcy is showing clear signs of decline and has passed his peak as a player. McFadden is the best inside centre in Ireland right now and if he continues this type of form, he must start at 12 on the Irish tour to New Zealand.
*Do you agree that McFadden is the answer for Ireland at 12? Do you think D’Arcy still has time left at international level? Would you like to see other players given a chance at inside centre? As always, feel free to drop a comment below with your thoughts and views!
Photos courtesy: Ken Bohane, Liam Coughlan.
Mcfadden Is playing better rugby than D’arcy and his kicking adds another dimension to his game, but I still think Trimble would make a savage 12. A hard tackler with buckets of pace and strength who makes good line breaks every game, plus his size would beef up the centre of the irish pitch.
Not too sure about Trimble at 12, although he has played a bit of rugby at 13. On the face of it, he has some strengths that might suit playing in the centre but there’s so much more to playing 12 at a high level. Awareness, decision making and defensive positioning being just a few. Trimble is doing a good job on the wing and that’s where he should stay!
Very brown ha. McFadden is good for leinster but still needs to step up for ireland. Obviously he cant do that without more game time. Four years til the next WC they really need to get rid of Darcy, he was class in his time but its gone. McFaddan and O Malley should be getting much more of a chance
Ha I know man, but I really rate him at 12! That’s fair that he needs to step up for Ireland, but he’s only started 5 times, the rest of his 11 caps were off the bench, often very late in the game. Plus those starts have been on the wing or at 13. He’s still managed to score 3 tries and has looked comfortable apart from that North bosh. I think Kidney has to stick him in at 12 and go with it, even if there are some hiccups early on!
I agree and Kidneys ulta-conservatism is frustrating but then again Schmit a much less conservative coach hasnt replaced D’Arcy with McFadden either at club level.
Yeah a good point, and so frustrating for McFadden. In fairness D’Arcy had a fairly good game against Munster last time out. But then McFadden came on, made one of the few clean line-breaks of the game and kicked a nice penalty. He’s pushing so hard. Reckon Schmidt will go for D’Arcy again on Saturday, but in his position I’d have McFadden in there. The sooner he is starting the better!
Looking at the Heineken cup 1/4 final line-ups strangely Musters has been the least conservative. With O’Donnell and Sherry getting the nod. Whereas Leinster have prefered D’Arcy to McFadden, Strauss to Cronin (frustrating from an Iris point of view) McLaughlin ahead of Ruddock etc. It really annoys me seeing players like Dave Kearny on the bench vs wales now playing A-level rugby. and Ruddock who was capped against Australia. I was also hoping Marshall would be prefered to Humphreys.Toner dropped back to the bench. All against a depleted Blues at home. Not Toulouse or Clermont away. At least Cave is back.
In agreement with everything you’ve said! I was very surprised to see Sherry and O’Donnell start, but delighted. I think they’ve earned their chance and hope they can deliver now.
For Leinster, Dave Kearney was the one I felt it harsh on to be omitted. He’s been great all season. If McFadden had started, I think Kearney probably would’ve been on the bench rather than D’Arcy. He now need a big game at 12 to repay Schmidt’s faith. Also surprised to see Toner on the bench! The second-row of Cullen and Thorn looks unbalanced, I’d prefer Toner and one of them together. No way they could drop Cullen though.
At Ulster, really think Marshall should be starting too. An absolutely brilliant player to have off the bench too, which is prob McLaughlin’s thinking. Expect him to come on in the last 30 mins with Munster starting to tire and have a big impact. As you said, the return of Cave is a positive. Can’t wait for him and Earls up against each other.
It’s going to be a brilliant weekend!