Saturday 24 February 2018

Jackson feels Ulster have issued message to Euro rivals

Ulster's Paddy Jackson. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Ulster's Paddy Jackson. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Jonathan Bradley

Having admitted that Ulster had lost their way earlier in the season, Paddy Jackson feels Les Kiss' men sent a message to the rest of Europe with their Champions Cup double over Toulouse.

Sunday's win in the Stade Ernest Wallon completed a memorable fortnight for Ulster after a 38-0 win over the same opposition a week prior and has resurrected a European campaign that looked set to flounder after a heavy home defeat to Saracens in the opening round.

The disruption of the World Cup and the wait for Kiss to arrive as the new director of rugby made for a disjointed start to the season but, having forged their first three-game winning streak since April, Ulster are rounding into form in the middle of a crucial run of fixtures that now takes in festive interpros against Connacht and Munster.

For Jackson, the wins over the four-time European champions have provided a timely reminder of the squad's capabilities.

"Toulouse have been playing very well," he said of their beaten opponent's domestic form.

"There were a lot of people doubting us over the last couple of weeks but now we've put two good performances together on the back of a good win in the league (against Edinburgh).

"We're starting to find our feet a bit after being lost for a while. It's a message to send out to everyone in Europe."

The fly-half has been central to the attacking intent that saw Ulster run in ten tries over their last three games and he appears back to his best after a frustrating World Cup, where he only got half an hour of rugby.

"It's just getting games back to back again," he said. "I missed a lot of rugby from injury last season and this year from missing out at the start of the season. I'm happy to get back-to-back games."

Now on nine points in Pool 1, Ulster would expect to secure a return to the European quarter-finals after last year's absence if they can double that return in their two games against struggling Oyonnax next month.

Jackson, however, insisted: "We won't be taking anything for granted. We've got a good chance to qualify from the pool when it comes back to it but we'll focus on the league now."

Irish Independent

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