Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Paddy Jackson leads by example against Samoa

Paddy Jackson puts the boot into Samoa

Paddy Jackson's 'assured' display further boosts Ireland's fly-half competition, according to head coach Joe Schmidt.

The 21-year-old Ulster playmaker led Ireland's line in Saturday's 40-9 victory over Samoa to open the autumn international series.

Jonathan Sexton's hip-injury absence led to a straight fight between Jackson and Leinster's Ian Madigan for the number 10 shirt.

Schmidt had explained in the build-up how Madigan's limited club opportunities this term proved a hindrance, with Kiwi Jimmy Gopperth impressing for the province.

And after Ireland's five-try triumph against the Samoans, the new head coach felt vindicated in handing the form club man the back-line reins.

"I thought Paddy was really assured," said Schmidt.

"Our kicking out of the hand wasn't as good as it could have been at times. We'll have to kick better out of hand across the board against Australia.

"But Paddy did marshal everyone really well and it was an assured performance from Paddy.

"It's not easy to come into that mix and control things like that, but I think we saw the evidence of his club form helping him settle."

Hoping for good news this week on openside flanker Chris Henry, Schmidt confirmed the gritty Ulster loose forward suffered a hamstring problem at Dublin's Aviva Stadium. Schmidt said: "I think Chris may have a slight hamstring tear. He could run but if he'd stayed on he would have done further damage.

"It was a massive opportunity for Chris, he's worked extremely hard to get it.

"It's really disappointing for him to be literally hamstrung. He tried to play through it, but it was determined that it wasn't something he could play on with." Until his injury, Henry had looked sharp at the breakdown, an area that left Schmidt relatively pleased.

Captain on the night Jamie Heaslip, try-scorer Peter O'Mahony and replacement Sean O'Brien backed up Henry's turnover work too.

But Schmidt warned the contact area will be another facet Ireland must sharpen in time for Australia's visit.

He said: "I think we could argue six to eight turnovers were forced by us on the ground.

"Others we were able to capitalise on slightly loose play from them, but we can probably still be reasonably pleased with that work."

A man of the match performance was produced by loose-head Jack McGrath, who stunned the assembled media when he described the night before his international debut.

"I just went home and chilled out for a while, watched a bit of Fair City, got caught up with that."

With laughter ensuing among the ranks of the hacks he went with the flow.

"Yeah, it's a great show... that's breaking news there now!" he teased.

When it got down to more serious matters and how he had prepared psychologically for the test ahead McGrath said: "Joe's always speaking about mental stuff – mental gym – during the week so I just sort of went through the scenarios in my mind and looked at him (Samoan tight-head Logovi'i Mulipola) on the video and practised a few things with our set-ups with Bestie (hooker Rory Best) and Rossie (tight-head Mike Ross) and the second-rows in behind.

"We just did that and we took it from there."

When it was suggested to him that the Irish scrum had been dominant, the modest McGrath replied: "Well, I haven't seen it to be honest. It just felt like we were hanging in there to be honest and I'd never like to disrespect a scrum such as the Samoans because they're quality players. I thought we fought well as a pack."

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