On the opening weekend of the World Cup, while attention gravitates toward marquee matchups like France vs. New Zealand and England vs. Argentina, Ireland faces a less glamorous challenge in Bordeaux. The Irish team is expected to comfortably defeat Romania, but there are unique pressures that come with such a fixture.
For those who remember the 2015 World Cup, a record crowd at Wembley witnessed Ireland’s 44-10 win over Romania. Ian Madigan, who started as fly-half and contributed 14 points to the victory, shared his thoughts on the pressures of playing lesser-known opponents. “Any time you play in front of a crowd you want to perform. For that World Cup, the Irish support was absolutely incredible, and I think it’s going to be the same in France,” said Madigan. He acknowledged that the World Cup brings a level of pressure unlike any other competition.
Facing weaker opposition can be tricky, as they may employ unusual tactics in an attempt to challenge stronger teams. “When you’re playing weaker opposition, quite often you don’t get presented with the normal pictures that you usually get when you’re playing a top-level team,” noted Madigan. Lesser-known teams may take risks that top teams would avoid, making it essential for Ireland to stay focused.
Madigan also discussed the iconic image of himself shedding tears of joy after steering Ireland to a crucial win over France in 2015. He admitted that there was a period when he didn’t particularly enjoy the attention the image brought him, including the memes on social media. However, he ultimately saw it as the highest point in his career, as it demonstrated his ability to perform under pressure and contribute to the team’s success.
Eight years later, Madigan is more comfortable with the image, but he acknowledged the immense pressure he felt during the World Cup. He now empathizes with young Irish fly-halves like Jack Crowley and Ross Byrne, who are expected to step up if needed.
Madigan’s return to Bordeaux, where he spent a season before moving to Bristol, brings back fond memories. He reflects on his 31 games for Ireland and the highs and lows of World Cup competitions. While he watches the current World Cup from the sidelines, he cherishes the opportunity he had to represent his country on the global stage.