Jackson aims to rise above criticism and get spark back
Ulster out-half Paddy Jackson has admitted that he found it hard to take some of the criticism for his role in Ireland's dismal Six Nations downfall.
"It's hard not to hear some of the comments," said Jackson, whose struggles from the kicking tee against Scotland masked a decent all-round game as Ireland crumbled to Murrayfield defeat in a torturous debut for the 21-year-old.
"You cannot sidestep all the comments that are made. In the end, it's what your team-mates, friends and family think of you as a player. Most importantly, it's what you think of yourself," he said.
"Of course, some of the media criticism dented my confidence at times and it was hard to come back from it. Now, I'm just keeping the head down and learning.
"I'm still young and I know I still have a lot to prove in the game. I'm now intent on getting that sparkle back in my game that I had at the start of the season.
"But playing for Ireland is what I always wanted. I just hope that I get another chance to win a few more caps."
And Jackson, set to joust with Ian Madigan for the starting No 10 jersey on Ireland's tour to North America, is determined for Ulster's season to finish on a high.
"Playing in the Pro12 semi-final (against Scarlets tonight) is something that we had earmarked from the start of the season. So it is good that we have achieved one of our goals. It's all about getting a trophy now."
Opposite him will be an equally talented out-half in Rhys Priestland, who starts a game for the first time since snapping his Achilles tendon late last year.
"I thought we would get into the play-offs, so I targeted trying to get back before the end of the season and play some part," says the 26-year-old Welsh international.
"My body feels good apart from my Achilles, which still feels a little stiff. I've really enjoyed coming back into the environment with the team."