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'The best compliment I can give Paddy is that he is getting the nod over Ronan'

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20 February 2013; Ireland's Paddy Jackson during a press conference ahead of their RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match against Scotland on Sunday. Ireland Rugby Press Conference, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

20 February 2013; Ireland's Paddy Jackson during a press conference ahead of their RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match against Scotland on Sunday. Ireland Rugby Press Conference, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

20 February 2013; Ireland's Paddy Jackson during a press conference ahead of their RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match against Scotland on Sunday. Ireland Rugby Press Conference, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

"WELL done," said Ronan O'Gara, apparently, as he reached out for the hand of the man who could bring down the curtain on his international career.

Suddenly, the man with 127 Ireland caps and 1,083 international points to his name has slipped to third in the out-half rankings behind Paddy Jackson.

It must be hard for O'Gara to stomach. There have been times when he couldn't hold his counsel, like when he prematurely announced his international retirement at the 2011 World Cup.

It is one of the roles of a coach for club or country to know when to push a player, when to tell the old racehorse his race is run and the young colt that his time has come.

"The best compliment I can give Paddy is that he is getting the nod over Ronan," said Kidney, as he mulled over the promotion of Jackson.

"It is not just form. It is not just strategy. It is not just tactical. It is the whole thing. That's the job of the coach to take a look at the whole picture."

 

pushed

Perhaps, Ireland's newest out-half Jackson was pushed into the number 10 jersey for Ulster in the Heineken Cup final when he wasn't ready for it.

"It was only my second start in the Heineken. I hadn't played that many games coming into the final last year. I hadn't played with the guys too much and I wasn't as familiar with the calls," he said.

The off-season gave the 20-year-old time to ponder his present and his future as the Ireland U20s, which he captained into last season's Six Nations, were doing great things at the World Cup in South Africa last June.

"I came back and had my first full pre-season at Ulster, just getting to know the new coach (Mark Anscombe), the new calls. Once I got a few more games and got to know the players a bit better, it was fine. You learn more from your mistakes than playing an absolute blinder.

"I don't think I will be as nervous. I had butterflies when my name was called out and then calmed down a bit. There has been real excitement from there."

Now, his national leader Kidney has become a believer. The time is right to let him show that he has turned into a man because Jackson has shown character.

"He has dealt with adversity, the first thing an out-half has to do. It is the first thing you have to learn. Out-halfs get all the blame or all the glory and you never deserve either. You're doing your job. That is the way I see the role.

 

hope

"If Paddy just gets out and does his job, it will be up to the 14 around him to do theirs," said Kidney.

There was also time for the hand of hope to be offered to O'Gara: "There are tight calls to be made. They are not easy calls to make, but that is the job of the coach. Their time will come around again.

"It is the nature of rugby. It is fairly attritional. Last November, we had – if you want to go off stats – we had a 30 per cent injury rate. Three or four years ago, when we won a (Grand) Slam, we had a 0 per cent injury rate."

The message is clear. Jackson will start at Murrayfield. O'Gara could finish it.


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