Monday 19 February 2018

Kidney goes with Paddy Jackson over O’Gara in “tight call”

Ulster’s Paddy Jackson will start for Ireland in Sunday’s clash with Scotland
Ulster’s Paddy Jackson will start for Ireland in Sunday’s clash with Scotland
Cormac Byrne

By Cormac Byrne

Declan Kidney has admitted that the decision to hand Paddy Jackson his first senior start over Ronan O’Gara was a “tight call”.

Jackson, who’s only appearance for Ireland was in the November game against Fiji which didn’t qualify as a full international, will replace the injured Jonathan Sexton at out-half for the trip to Murrayfield

“I’ve to make tight calls and that’s what the role of the coach is,” Kidney said.

“Calls have to be made and you have to pick what you think is right for the team.

“It’s not the easiest part of the job but it’s more tough on the players.

"Paddy's inclusion was a challenge given the stature of Ronan O'Gara, but I think Paddy deserves a go in this one.

"It was a very difficult decision to leave Ronan out, it was right up there. But that's a compliment to Paddy.

"There were always going to be five changes to the side that played against England."

Munster veteran O’Gara, who turns 36 next month, was expected to be Kidney's automatic choice to replace Sexton given he has served as back-up at fly-half since the 2011 World Cup.

But his form this season has been poor, with his substitute appearance in the 12-6 defeat by England and display against Llanelli over the weekend pointing to his decline and he has been retained on the bench.

In the other changes to his lineup, Keith Earls, Donnacha O’Callaghan, debutant Luke Marshall and Tom Court come in for the injured Simon Zebo, Gordon D’Arcy and Mike McCarthy and the suspended Cian Healy

Paddy Jackson admitted that he was “very surprised” to be selected but was glad to be getting the chance to start his first RBS Six Nations game

“I’m really glad I’ve got my chance,” he said.

“It’s probably the biggest game I’ve played in. I’ve come a long way since the Heineken Cup final(last year). I’m really looking forward to it.

“I’m not going to try and over-think it, I’m going to try and play my game.

“I trust everyone around me and hopefully they trust me too.

“We’re all professional rugby players and we all want to start.”

Jackson’s Ulster team mate Luke Marshall will also make his first senior start against the Scots and is looking forward to lining out beside Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll.

“I’ve been watching Brian since I was about nine and I’m really looking forward to playing beside him,” he said.

When asked what advice he will give to the Ulster pair captain Jamie Heaslip told Jackson and Marshall to play their own games

“To be honest when the came in November they showed how professional they are,” he said. “The best advice is to go out and play your game, that’s why you’re picked.”

Luke Fitzgerald has been picked ahead of Andrew Trimble and Fergus McFadden for a place on the bench.

Ireland must win in Edinburgh to preserve their fading Six Nations title hopes, but have been decimated by injury and suspension and their campaign is in danger of imploding.

Ireland team to play Scotland on Sunday: Rob Kearney, Craig Gilroy, Brian O’Driscoll, Luke Marshall, Keith Earls, Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahoney, Donncha Ryan, Donnacha O’Callaghan, Mike Ross, Rory Best, Tom Court.

Replacements Sean Cronin, Iain Henderson, Dave Kilcoyne , Declan Fitzpatrick , Eoin Reddan , Ronan O’Gara, Luke Fitzgerald.

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