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Paddy Jackson relishing relishing role in Ireland team

By Niall Crozier

Paddy Jackson was calmness personified at Carton House in the immediate aftermath of the Irish team to face Samoa tomorrow (5.45pm) in Dublin having been announced.

"I'm feeling good, been training well in the last couple of weeks," said the 21-year-old who will be winning his fifth Ireland cap.

"I have the clarity and the patterns, I know what Joe (Schmidt) wants so I'm looking forward to it."

Already here is a fan of the new Ireland coach for whom this will be his first game in charge after succeeding Declan Kidney in the hot seat.

"I've really enjoyed learning as much as I can from him. With him, it's very much the little things that build up. It's been brilliant, he's a real perfectionist," Jackson enthused.

"You know exactly what he wants and it brings that clarity to the whole squad. They know what he wants; everyone is on the same page."

So what has Jackson discovered Schmidt wants? What have his training sessions been like?

"It's very high standard, very much has to be driven from the players as well," he explained. "But if you drop the ball, nobody means to drop the ball. Joe knows that.

"Obviously he's trying to drive for that perfection which everyone is looking for. It's not like schoolboy rugby, he's not going to shout at you. But he doesn't miss anything and he knows if you're doing your job. It lifts the standards in training.

"If you're in the wrong position, that's not good. But just dropping the ball, nobody means to do that.

"It's all about getting clarity and getting used to the sort of game that he wants to play. Everyone is on the page now because we've been here for two weeks so it's good."

Studying the plays Schmidt wants has been a pleasant learning curve, too, he revealed.

"Again, it's self-driven," he says. "We have our team meetings, he lays the patterns out. You need to know them for training, otherwise you let yourself down but also everyone else down as well.

"It's purely down to you to make sure you know your stuff. I've been doing it in my room anyway."

He is becoming used to working and playing alongside the big names.

"When I first came out, it was kind of cool seeing all these players and being with them. But now it's like being back home; the more I play with them, the more comfortable I feel," Jackson said.

And the responsibility of calling the shots from 10 appears not to faze him.

"It's something I enjoy, leading the attack and leading the team," he said confidently. "Once you get on the pitch, you have to turn into a different person though. It's like having a different personality!"

Out-half being such a centre-stage role, he knows the spotlight will be on him.

"You get used to it," he said. "It is hard to deal with sometimes. It's something you have to get used to. You have family and friends to help out.

"But I can't do much about changing people's minds. I have to focus on my own game.

"It's hard," he admitted. "These things creep into your mind sometimes and you just have to try to shut them out and have confidence in yourself."

Asked if he feels he has changed as a result of some of the hard knocks he has had to take after being tossed in at the deep end by Ulster and then Ireland, he said: "No I haven't. It's just experience, I'm feeling very comfortable the way I'm playing now.

"Maybe, in the past if things went well, I felt I might have overdone things to compensate, maybe kick out on the full or something.

"So it's about staying calm, coming down to that composure. I try to focus on the next play, not the result or what people are thinking of you, or the crowd or anything like that."

He revealed that Ireland's first-choice fly-half, Jonny Sexton, has been supportive. A hip injury meant he was not available to face the Samoans, though he is expected to be ready to face Australia on Saturday week.

"Jonny hasn't been training but I've felt comfortable asking him questions," Jackson said. "He's a lot of experience and he obviously knows Joe's game-plan very well, so he's been very helpful and it's all good."

As for facing the physically daunting Samoans, his approach was: "I think we'll be looking just to take our opportunities and with the experience outside me my vision will be very much looking to put us in the right areas. But if it's on the go, as soon as I hear that call we'll be going for it.

"I think when I can – when the ball's good – I'll be looking to get flat and trying to get a bit of momentum into the game. What the weather's like as well (will be a factor) so we'll know more on the day."

Belfast Telegraph


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