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Mature Paddy Jackson knows his big moment will still come

By Niall Crozier

You have to feel for Paddy Jackson whose life as a rugby player is as up and down as a big dipper.

Still only 21, already he has been through most of the emotions a professional will experience.

As well as total elation he has known bitter disappointment. And with outpourings of praise offset by sometimes stinging criticism, he has had to learn to handle both.

To his credit, he has become adept at sidestepping the plaudits as well as the brickbats, recognising that it would be ill-advised to pay too much attention to those who lob either his way. A la Kipling, Jackson (pictured) has learned to meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.

The expectation is that he will be stepping down from Ireland's starting XV for Saturday evening's Aviva Stadium Test against Australia.

If so, he will already have been informed of that fact; the rest of us must wait until lunch-time tomorrow when, in the splendour of Carton House's drawing room, Joe Schmidt announces his match-day 23.

While some would regard Jackson's downgrade as harsh given his performance in Ireland's 40-9 rout of Samoa last weekend, this remarkably grounded young man is unlikely to consider the verdict in such negative terms.

Mature beyond his years, to him such calls go with the territory. And when they do, you sup it up and go back to work.

He knows the score. He understands that as things stand currently, Sexton – the British and Irish Lions' stand-off in each of the summer's three Tests against Australia, a Heineken Cup and RaboDirect PRO12 winner with Leinster and now, having joined Racing Metro, one of Europe's best paid rugby stars – is ahead of him in the queue for the green number 10 shirt.

So you won't hear him complaining. Instead he will continue to do what he has done since Ulster pitched him in at the deep end in 2011-12. He will keep his head down and apply himself anew in the conviction that, ultimately, improvement as a result of hard work will make him impossible to ignore.

Schmidt is a good man and an excellent coach. For both reasons, Jackson's performance against the Samoans will not have been wasted on him. He knows the young Ulsterman's game management was excellent and that he is making rapid progress in coming to terms with bossing elder statesmen like Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell. And he appreciates that as a still-new kid on the block, it cannot be easy for Jackson to tell talismen of their vast experience and status what to do.

So while he won't be starting against the Wallabies, be in no doubt that Paddy Jackson has a great future ahead of him. This man's star is on the rise.

Belfast Telegraph


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