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'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.
Feb 3rd 2017, 4:40 PM 5,221 11

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 Source: Billy Stickland/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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Sean Farrell

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