The 27-year-old Ireland fly-half will leave Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles at the end of the season after failing to settle in France, having left Leinster to cross the Channel in 2016. Madigan was overlooked by Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt for the Six Nations this year due to his decision to move to France, but playing in the Premiership –or Championship – is no given that he will return to the national side given that the entire squad is based in Ireland.
“The opportunity to come to England and prove myself here is one that I relish,” Madigan said after Bristol announced the move on Monday. “Bristol Rugby has a clear vision for what they want to achieve and the club’s philosophy match my own ambitions.”
However, his decision to join Bristol at a time when they are seven points adrift from safety following Sunday’s demoralising 41-24 defeat by 11th-placed Worcester Warriors has raised attention to an interview Madigan gave in 2015 ahead of his Leinster exit, in which he cast doubt on joining Bristol because he did not want to play in the second tier of English rugby.
“I certainly wouldn’t be looking to play in the Championship,” Madigan said two years ago. “If you decide to move to a club like Bristol, you’re taking a massive risk in them not getting promoted.
“Having been in such a fantastic club like Leinster, you’re used to competing and winning competitions. I’d great success even as a kid playing with Kilmacud Crokes. I was lucky that I was on good a good schools team in Blackrock. I play sport to win competitions, and to win medals. That’s why I’m in the business.”
Madigan’s previous admission casts doubt on why he now feels risking a move to the Championship is worth it, given that Bristol have been known to shell out lucrative financial deals in recent years in their effort to return to the Premiership.
But it looks as though one persuasive factor in making Madigan’s mind up was the imminent arrival of current Connacht head coach Pat Lam, the man who guided the Irish provincial side to last season’s unexpected Pro12 title and who will take over as Bristol head coach in the summer to replace Mark Tainton.
Lions starting XV - Six Nations round three
Lions starting XV - Six Nations round three
1/15 15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Miles clear of Mike Brown and Rob Kearney and looks a much better option for running the ball than Leigh Halfpenny right now. Hogg has been nothing short of brilliant going forwards, and despite not possessing the kicking option or the defensive nous of Halfpenny, he’s one of the first names on the teamsheet.
2/15 14. Liam Williams (Wales)
Ousts international teammate George North after the Northampton Saints wing proved anonymous against Scotland. Williams has scored a try in every round so far and is proving his weight in gold as a finisher, while he’s also accustomed to coming off his wing to find work.
3/15 13. Jonathan Davies (Wales)
He is still the safest option at outside centre, but the chasing pack are closing in after a strong weekend for 13s. Garry Ringsrose is improving with every week, while Huw Jones offers more with the ball in hand than Davies, whose powerful and direct running keep him in the side. Ben Te’o also showed what he can offer, though time is running out for him and Jonathan Joseph is likely to come back into the England side to face Scotland.
4/15 12. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
Henshaw gives you the understanding with Jonathan Sexton combined with a player who not only thrives on front-foot ball but also can cope with beating the gain line when on the back-foot – a very handy trait to have in the locker. He can also cover at outside centre, which on a Lions tour is a major boost.
5/15 11. Elliot Daly (England)
Deals with every challenge thrown at him and crossed the try line for the second match running to help trigger the fightback against Italy. Possesses a reliable, howitzer of a left foot, which is Halfpenny is out of the side will be a useful tool in New Zealand.
6/15 10. Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
Returned in style to force Owen Farrell out of the side and prove he will not give up the Lions 10 jersey easily. Injuries have dogged him this season, but it took him 40 minutes to show what he can offer as he got the Irish backline firing on all cylinders.
7/15 9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
Had Greig Laidlaw been available this week, Murray could still have forced his way back in to the side. A man-of-the-match display in Dublin – including the only try of the game – helped Ireland record back-to-back wins and his box-kicking remains the best in the business.
8/15 1. Mako Vunipola (England)
His impact from the bench was certainly noticeable as the English scrum finally got the better of the Italian pack, and with plenty of time for the loosehead to regain full fitness, there’s no reason why he won’t don the No 1 shirt on 24 June as long as he avoids any more setbacks.
9/15 2. Rory Best (Ireland)
He’s still ahead of Dylan Hartley, but Jamie George is breathing down his neck and it’s only down to Best’s strong performance against France – with a 100 per cent lineout record from 17 throws – and a solid defensive showing that keeps him in the side. With leaders elsewhere though, George might just find himself in favour come the end of the Six Nations.
10/15 3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
He re-established the gap between himself and Dan Cole with a very impressive outing in the loose for Ireland, and he is also a third of one of Europe’s strongest front-rows right now.
11/15 4. Joe Launchbury (England)
The England lock has to come into the side after yet another man-of-the-match performance against Italy. The Wasps skipper is giving Warren Gatland plenty to think about, having proven himself in the lineout and also with his desire to carry. But with Alun Wyn Jones, Richie Gray, Devin Toner and Courtney Lawes also knocking on the door, not to mention the injured George Kruis hoping to somehow prove his fitness, it’s an awfully difficult task to pick the second-row.
12/15 5. Jonny Gray (Scotland)
Gray shifts from four to five but remains the standout option in the Six Nations based on the last three rounds. Having started the championship as possible squad inclusion, he’s suddenly looking undroppable from the first XV.
13/15 6. Maro Itoje (England)
Itoje offers too much to the squad to leave out. He packs down in the second-row for England, leads the lineout by example with another two steals at the weekend, and is both a formidable tackler and carrier. He simply has to slot in somewhere, and he’s currently making the No 6 shirt his own.
14/15 7. Justin Tipuric (Wales)
Tipuric holds onto the shirt despite experiencing a difficult week given that there is not much competition around. Neither James Haskell nor John Hardie – now out for the rest of the Six Nations – were able to take their chance at the weekend, and while Sean O’Brien and Hamish Watson impressed, you’d still rather have a livewire like Tipuric in the side.
15/15 8. Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)
Billy Vunipola finally drops out of the side after hinting that a Six Nations return may be beyond him. In comes Ireland’s vice-captain Jamie Heaslip, and with Taulupe Faletau yet to find his best from the replacements’ bench, it’s Heaslip who has led the way with strong outings against Italy and France.
“I know the expansive style of rugby that Pat [Lam] and his coaching team want to play and that excites me,” Madigan added. “I was so impressed with the vision that was laid out to me, it made it an easy decision to commit to Bristol.
“The culture that the club are building, coupled with a city that loves its rugby, is something that really appeals to me. I’m looking forward to representing Bristol in front of the passionate supporters at Ashton Gate.”
As well as the addition of Madigan, Bristol announced the contract extension of 21-year-old fly-half Callum Sheedy, who is currently on loan at Championship side Jersey and in high demand for his international allegiance through his qualification for Wales as his country of birth, Ireland through ancestry and England on residency grounds.Reuse content