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'He cracks the whip': Trimble backs Jackson to threaten Sexton in Ireland shirt

It’s been another frustrating tournament for Jackson, but Joe Schmidt might just feel the need to test an alternative to his starting 10 before bigger Tests come back around.

ANDREW TRIMBLE BELIEVES his Ulster and Ireland team-mate Paddy Jackson has already shown he is capable of taking the reins at international level.

Andrew Trimble shares a joke with Paddy Jackson Source: Presseye/Brian Little/INPHO

With no Six Nations Championship on the line for Ireland over the next fortnight, Jackson is one of the men who Joe Schmidt may feel the need to test run from the start. If not to simply offer a breather to the constantly in-the-wars Jonathan Sexton, then to keep his options beyond the 30-year-old out-half open.

Though Jackson has been a consistent presence in a progressing Ulster side and has been the form out-half in Ireland between international tournaments this season, since the 2014 Six Nations decider, Schmidt has tended to allow the playmaker return to his province by team announcement day. The Kiwi preferring to put Ian Madigan’s perceived attributes as a utility back to use on the bench instead.

As a consequence now, Jackson has just 13 caps to his name since a controversial debut in 2013. In the same timeframe, the Bordeaux-bound Madigan has 22 from the bench alone.

Paddy Jackson Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“From a provincial point of view Paddy is probably our most important player,” Trimble said at Carton House after training with with the out-half yesterday.

“When he plays we generally play well, he’s a guy who has just matured so much in the last few years. When he came in at the start he was wet behind the ears, he was a youngster and he’s just become a leader.

“I know the temptation is in a press conference like this that if you’re asked about someone then generally it’s to talk him up. But I genuinely feel with Paddy that he’s very, very important to us and we’re very lucky to have him.

He cracks the whip, he’s a leader, he makes sure standards are maintained and you don’t have to look further than Johnny to see someone who Jacky’s on his way to becoming, in my opinion anyway.”

Defeat away to Scotland on his debut did somewhat tarnish Jackson in the minds of many on this island. Now 24, the Belfast man has now built enough of a body of work behind him to make 2013 more of an interesting footnote than a defining moment.

“There’s probably a number of young number 10s coming through who wouldn’t be anywhere near as resilient as Paddy is.

“I think what he’s had to deal with, in being thrown in there a couple of times when things aren’t going well and taking a hard time, he has shown massive maturity and resilience and I think he’s bounced back really well and become the person I was just describing.

“He is just genuinely our most important player when we’re playing for Ulster.

“I have seen him a couple of times when things haven’t been going well, or when he has been getting a hard time, I have seen him respond with massive maturity and resilience. He has bounced back really well.”

Jackson is a born number 10, an attribute that has oddly wound up hindering his efforts to build a collection of caps. He is not a line-breaker with a fondness of a big inside step, his passes aren’t flung at lightning pace from side to side and he doesn’t openly castigate team-mates for mistakes. Though he has done all of those things too.

Paddy Jackson Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With Jackson, everything is a little more subtle. His sympathetic passing and in-built game-management are skills that make him a quality attacking weapon which Ulster have long since started reaping the rewards of installing at a young age.

“When you are saying: ‘you have to stick with him,’ I don’t think he is someone who is tough to stick with. When things don’t go well for him, the next week he will step up and be a different person altogether. And he will learn something from his experience.

“I know he learned a lot down here. Obviously at the World Cup he didn’t get much game-time either, and that was frustrating. But he came straight back to Ulster, put his hand up and said ‘I am going to take this team forward’ and he did that.

“And that is the reason I speak so highly of him. I don’t think it is tough to put our trust in someone like that. I don’t think we have to make ourselves do it. I think he is going to make us do it by the way he performs.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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