Monday 19 February 2018

Kiss gives Jackson seal of approval after difficult learning curve

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JUST five months have passed since Les Kiss kept Paddy Jackson on the Ireland bench for the summer tour in the United States and Canada, but now he believes the Ulster youngster is the right man to lead the backline against Samoa.

The 21-year-old played just 20 minutes of the second Test in Toronto in June after a season that saw him thrown in at the deep end during the Six Nations.

He finished the campaign behind Johnny Sexton and Ian Madigan in the pecking order, but is now back in a green jersey after the former suffered a hip flexor injury and the latter found himself on the Leinster bench for most of the campaign.

After a difficult 12 months of learning his trade in the limelight, Kiss reckons Jackson has come out the other side.

"'Mads' had played a whole heap of games at 10 and he was in good form," Kiss explained of his summer tour decision. "He earned his start and then he earned his start for the second game against Canada.

OPPORTUNITY

"Paddy certainly put some form on the board early this year. He's probably had more opportunity than 'Mads'.

"Joe (Schmidt) is working really hard with Paddy in a lot of areas of his game management from 10, and he's fully deserved (his call).

"We have no doubts that he'll be able to do the job. When you talk to the guys up in Ulster, Rory Best, Tommy Bowe, Johann Muller and the like, they have a lot of confidence in him.

"It's testament to Paddy that he's really stuck to his guns and worked hard, and as he says he's becoming more comfortable at what the demands are at this next level. We have full confidence that he'll do the job for us."

Best echoed the defence coach's sentiments, saying the youngster has earned the trust of his team-mates at club and country.

"We have a lot of confidence in him," the hooker said. "He's done it fairly tough. He's come straight from school into being our number one No 10.

"He hasn't had anyone of real quality to learn from in Ulster, and he's had to do it his own way through making mistakes. The way he's come back this season, it speaks volumes for how much he wants it. We have a lot of faith in him as a high quality rugby player.

"He's kicked very well but that's probably a bit of a sideshow for us because what's really impressed us has been his game management, especially away in Montpellier and Leicester at home.

"When we were up against it a wee bit he got us field position, he got grass, he got ball off the pitch, and he's running around now telling a fairly experienced forward pack in Ulster where to go and what to do."

Irish Independent

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