Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Cool Paddy is ready to take Scots by storm

If, at 2pm on Sunday at Murrayfield, Ulster out-half Paddy Jackson is anything like as calm as he was at 1.30 yesterday afternoon when the Ireland team to face Scotland was announced, there ought not to be any problems.

Jackson is one of two new caps – Ulster team-mate and centre Luke Marshall is the other – and he took to yesterday's public unveiling like the proverbial duck to water.

"First cap and something I've been wanting to get for a long time – since I was very little – so I'm very much looking forward to it," was the 21-year-old's response when asked if he was excited.

Asked if, 12 months ago, he could possibly have envisaged himself in the countdown to a Six Nations debut at this stage, his confident, self-assured reply was: "I think so, yeah. It's something I've always wanted to do and it's something I set upon myself to try to make it happen.

"I'm not going to say that I was going to be in this position but it's something that I've aimed at.

"With Jonny (Sexton) and Ronan (O'Gara) there I knew that if there was an injury, it could be my chance.

"It might not have been, but I'm just glad it is.

"I've put on myself that I've always wanted to make it happen and I'm just glad it's happening."

And the Ulster player revealed that 127 times-capped O'Gara, who will be his understudy on Sunday, had been magnanimous in accepting coach Declan Kidney's decision.

"He was actually the first to shake my hand and say well done, which was very nice of him. There wasn't much to talk about, he just said 'Well done, I'm very happy for you' and that was it," Jackson said.

Recalling his promotion through the ranks – Jackson captained the Ireland Under 20s in last season's championship and starred for the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds against Fiji in November – he was matter of fact about his progress.

"I think my first camp was just over a year ago so I've been involved for a while. It's good playing with Conor (Murray, Ireland's scum-half) so I'll be used to him. It will be good playing with him again."

Jackson admitted that the possibility of a full international debut had dawned on him while he was watching the Ireland-England game.

"When I saw Jonny go down I kind of sat up in my seat a bit," he explained.

The starting line-up shows five changes to the one which faced England – four the result of injury, one through suspension. In addition to Jackson for Sexton and Marshall for Gordon D'Arcy, Keith Earls comes in on the left wing in place of Simon Zebo.

Up front, Ulster's Tom Court returns to the front row at loose-head, taking over from the suspended Cian Healy. He partners provincial colleague Rory Best.

And with Mike McCarthy injured, Munster's Donncha O'Callaghan comes back for his 93rd Ireland cap. He plays alongside Donnacha Ryan in the second row.

The changes on the bench see Ulster's Iain Henderson named in the replacements, with Leinster's Luke Fitzgerald making a welcome return to the international squad after injury and provincial colleague Devin Toner, the giant lock, also earning a seat.

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