Belfast Telegraph

Paddy Jackson: Ulster's focus has not taken a big kick after Munster draw

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's Paddy Jackson maintains that Saturday's 23-23 draw with Munster has done little to alter the team's preparations and mindset ahead of their final regulation PRO12 game against Glasgow this weekend.

Jackson's last-gasp conversion of Paul Marshall's try concluded the dramatic stalemate and the two points picked up mean that Ulster go into Saturday's clash with Gregor Townsend's side needing to win, and hoping for either Munster to be defeated by Dragons or Ospreys to lose in Connacht, if they are to host their PRO12 semi-final the following weekend.

Given that, in 10 previous attempts over the five years of the play-offs, no side has won an away tie in the last four of the competition, the location of the semi-final is of huge importance but Jackson and his colleagues were already of the opinion that the trip to Glasgow was a must-win.

"That was always the case anyway," said the in-form fly-half. "Rory (Best) and Doakie (head coach Neil Doak) spoke to us at the start of last week and said we need two wins.

"Win, lose or draw we were going to Glasgow looking for a win so nothing has really changed from that point of view."

Glasgow have yet to lose at home in the PRO12 this season, although they did suffer a reverse at Scotstoun to Toulouse in the Champions Cup, but were sluggish in a defeat to Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium last week.

That loss dropped them into second and, similar to Ulster, there is now every chance they will need to win on the road if they are to make the Belfast final on May 30.

If not for Jackson's nerveless kick, the hopes of Doak's men snatching a top-two finish would have been even more remote and the 23-year-old admits that the attempt off the tee was one of the most tense of his career.

"It was definitely one of the most nerve-wracking," he said. "I was very happy with my place-kicking but I've still a bit to do on kicking out of hand and they covered the back-field very well."

The draw-sealing effort was the concluding act of another noteworthy display that will surely have caught the eye of the watching Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

With World Cup spots on the line, the nine-times capped international has timed his run to form perfectly, even if he was a touch frustrated that his side's inventive back-line play didn't yield greater reward on Saturday.

"I've always said I play my best when I get back-to-back games and I've been able to do that now," said Jackson when asked for the primary reason behind his recent stellar performances.

"I've been working hard on the kicking and if anything happened to Ruan (Pienaar) I'd be there to take my chance and I did that.

"It was very positive that we were getting into dangerous positions but frustrating that we weren't finishing them so it's another thing to look at."

Meanwhile, as they prepare to play in front of a record regular season crowd for Glasgow's Scotstoun Stadium, Ulster are still waiting to determine the full fall-out from Saturday's bruising encounter.

Iain Henderson will have a disciplinary hearing tomorrow after his red card while Wiehahn Herbst, Callum Black and Roger Wilson all left the field in varying degrees of discomfort.

Louis Ludik also received treatment on more than one occasion and Pienaar played the full 80 minutes despite an ankle complaint that restricted his ability to kick.

Winger Peter Nelson also shipped a knock that ended his afternoon but it is expected that the league's top try-scorer, Craig Gilroy, will be fit to return after missing the Munster game with a strained hamstring.

Doak confirmed, however, that Andrew Trimble will not feature despite the international winger's return to light training last week.

Ulster trio Craig Gilroy, Rory Best and Franco van der Merwe have been named in the PRO12 Dream Team for 2014-2015.

Guinness Pro12 Dream Team: Liam Williams (Scarlets), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Craig Gilroy (Ulster), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Denis Buckley (Connacht), Rory Best (Ulster), WP Nel (Edinburgh), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Franco van der Merwe (Ulster), CJ Stander (Munster), Tommy O'Donnell (Munster), Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors).

Belfast Telegraph


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