Jackson gets nod for Ulster at Aviva

Alex Lowe



Paddy Jackson was still in short trousers and more interested in football than rugby when Ulster defeated Colomiers 21-6 to win the 1999 Heineken Cup.

Tomorrow, the 20-year-old (pictured) will start at fly-half for his province after being preferred to Ian Humphreys for Ulster's biggest day in the 13 years since they were crowned European champions.

Ulster tackle Edinburgh at the Aviva Stadium for a place in the Heineken Cup final, where they would face either defending champions Leinster or French giants Clermont Auvergne.

More than 33,000 are reportedly heading south to Dublin in the hope of seeing Jackson pilot Ulster into the Twickenham final on May 19.

Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin does not see Jackson's selection ahead of the more experienced Humphreys, who started the quarter-final victory over Munster, as any kind of a gamble.

"Nobody wants to miss an occasion like this. It's been 13 years since we've had a game this big. It really wasn't easy selecting the squad this week," said McLaughlin.

"Paddy has come in over the last few weeks and done exceptionally well.

"His performances have warranted selection. It's a very tough call on Ian who has been exceptional for us over the past couple of seasons, but we felt Paddy deserved a shot.

"Edinburgh are one of the form teams in Europe. They beat Toulouse, one of the kingpins of the competition. It will be a big challenge for us."

Ulster, who won both their Rabodirect PRO12 meetings with Edinburgh this season, are without Chris Henry after the influential loose forward sprained his ankle.

As a result, Willie Faloon retains his place on the openside with Stephen Ferris back on the blindside and Pedrie Wannenburg at eight.

Lock Dan Tuohy and hooker Rory Best return after being rested last weekend, while Declan Fitzpatrick continues at tighthead prop after impressing against Leinster last week.

Jackson is the youngest member of the squad and had just turned seven when Ulster beat Stade Francais in the 1999 semi-final.