'He's a leader now': Jackson presence a seamless transition for Ireland

The Ulster number 10 played more Test minutes than Sexton last year despite sitting out the Six Nations.

THE DAYS OF Ireland players and coaches feeling the need to vehemently back the skill-set of Paddy Jackson going in to an international Test match are long gone. Trust doesn’t need to be underlined.

The Ulster out-half is Ireland’s incumbent number 10 having guided the team to victory in tough circumstances against Australia in November.

Jonathan Sexton’s latest injury flare-up have ensured he will hold the reins tightly again when the Six Nations kicks off in Murrayfield.

“He’s been great, he’s a leader now,” came the succinct words of scrum coach Greg Feek.

“He’s been amongst us for a good while, he’s taken it all on board, he knows his detail well and he’s a smart kid. There’s a lot of trust in what he does, from the coaches but also the rest of the team as well.”

As the leader of that team, Rory Best, points out: this Ireland team should now be just as accustomed to playing with Jackson at out-half as he played 449 minutes across six Test appearances last year, compared to Sexton’s 427 minutes in seven.

Paddy Jackson Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“He’s played the majority of the Tests in the last 12 months, so he’s ready to perform,” says Best after leading the Captain’s Run at Murrayfield today.

I think the growth of Jacko over the last probably since before the World Cup has been fairly evident. Up at Ulster we would be in a lot worse position if he wasn’t there.

“He’s learned a lot I think from working so closely with Johnny. It’s a long period from the middle of June right through to October, he learned a lot there, he matured a lot.

“He had to focus when he wasn’t getting a start, but he’s shown in a couple of big performances and he’s been in the out-half slot for those.”

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