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Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Paddy Jackson aiming to get familiar faces outside him firing in Johannesburg

Conor Murray and Robbie Henshaw are the only non-Ulster backs named for Ireland this weekend.
Jun 16th 2016, 4:20 PM 7,528 11

PADDY JACKSON WILL have plenty of familiar faces around him in Ireland’s backline when he runs out at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Jackson is one of a five-strong Ulster contingent which includes Stuart Olding, Craig Gilroy, Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne as Joe Schmidt’s side look to seal a historic series victory against the Springboks this weekend.

The Ulster number 10 is looking particularly looking forward to what Olding can offer as a foil at inside centre against a physical Boks midfield.

“It’s very very exciting,” said Jackson.

“Obviously Luke [Marshall] was brilliant last week, I thought. I’ve been playing with him all season. He’s always a voice outside me, which helps. He can take pressure off, slot into 10 during phase play, no problem, and Stu can do the exact same thing. He’s a great utility player and having that left-foot option will be good.

Gilly getting his chance, he’s been waiting for this for ages, since he burst onto the scene a good few years ago and I think he’s so excited to get out there. I’m just really looking forward to try and get them a bit of ball and to get them moving.”

Jackson came of age during the victory at Newlands with his 16-point haul and intelligent game management helping a 14-man Irish side secure a memorable victory.

Having watched Johnny Sexton run the Irish backline with nerveless authority over the past few seasons, Jackson stepped up to the plate in the most trying of circumstances.

“Yeah, I was trying to relax. I was obviously excited and nervous,” the 24-year-old explained.

“The main thing in my mind was that I really wanted to manage the team and run the game. Obviously Johnny’s been doing that so well for a number of years and I felt I had to earn the respect and the trust of the guys around me.

“I think we all did that. We all stepped up so from that point of view, obviously I was glad we got the win and things went well. I’ll be looking to do that again this week and really manage the game.”

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Paddy Jackson Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Jackson has another chance to put his stamp on the Ireland 10 jersey. Schmidt will certainly have an interesting selection headache next season when Sexton comes back into the reckoning if Jackson maintains this level of performance.

“Yeah, well, Johnny has had the number 10 jersey for a good while now and rightly so,” he said.

He’s one of the world’s best players. I had my chance in 2013 and it didn’t go particularly well. Ever since, I’ve been trying to fight my way back in and whenever I get a chance off the bench or a start, it meant a lot to me. I’m just glad I’ve got another shot this week and that I can get the 10 jersey as much as I can and when I get that opportunity, I’ll just try and take it.”

Jackson’s new-found maturity at Test level was glaringly evident in the dying stages of last weekend’s endgame.

Leading 23-13, Jackson, who had been near flawless for 70 minutes, gifted Pieter-Steph du Toit an intercept try to give the Boks a late lifeline. With a few words of support from Jamie Heaslip under the posts, however, he composed himself to steer Ireland home in the final minutes, hitting the penalty to give his side a precious six-point cushion.

“As a 10, you’re always a little hard on yourself. I think the game went well for me but it obviously gave them the opportunity to take the game at the end.

“The great thing was – once it happened, I was under the posts, first thought was ‘Flip, I’ve messed this up,’ but when I looked around at the team, everyone was focused on the next task.  I felt a hand on the shoulder from Jamie, who says: ‘Don’t worry about it, let’s get to the kick-off,’ and immediately I just calmed down, realised we were still winning.

“We all covered each other’s backs and finished the game strongly. I think it was credit to the lads for backing me up there.”

No doubt, he’ll have plenty of them in his corner on Saturday.

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