Joe Schmidt tells Stuart McCloskey and Paddy Jackson their Six Nations time will come
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has told Stuart McCloskey and Paddy Jackson that their time in green will come despite leaving the Ulster duo out of his match-day squad to face Italy at the Aviva tomorrow (1.30pm kick-off).
Jackson has been in eye-catching form for his province ever since returning from an elbow injury last spring but has not featured in the Six Nations since coming off the bench in this fixture two seasons ago.
The man Andrew Trimble this week called Ulster's most important player has again been ignored in favour of Ian Madigan for the role of Johnny Sexton's back-up with Schmidt citing the Bordeaux-bound Leinsterman's versatility and accuracy off the tee as primary factors.
Schmidt said: "Johnny Sexton hasn't missed a kick at goal, Ian Madigan has a phenomenal strike-rate and that's one of the aspects.
"Another is Ian's versatility as opposed to Paddy who is mostly a ten."
Despite another frustrating weekend ahead for the 24-year-old, the head coach did at least offer some words of encouragement.
"Paddy and I have had a pretty open dialogue and that's been over the last two years.
"Injuries scuppered his opportunity when he would have definitely got chances against Argentina a couple of years ago.
"I think he's a super young player. I've got a lot of time for Paddy. I think he will grow into a player that will accumulate a number of caps."
Jackson's provincial teammate McCloskey is another disappointed Ulsterman and he will not get the chance to build upon his performance on debut against England two weeks ago.
The 23-year-old grew into that game at Twickenham alongside Robbie Henshaw but Schmidt has restored his tried and tested for this weekend.
Rejecting the notion that, if ever there is a time to experiment in the Six Nations, it is Italy at home with the championship long since gone, McCloskey and Henshaw together in midfield seems like a one and done selection for this year at least with Ulster's fit-again Jared Payne back in the 13 jersey rather than taking the place of an injured Rob Kearney at full-back.
"We want to keep investing in Stuart for sure," said the former Leinster supremo.
"We did consider him there (on the bench, rather than Fergus McFadden). It just then means there's a concertina effect if you make a substitution and you have to push someone else out of position to accommodate somebody coming on.
"We try with the bench to have as little disruption as possible when we make a substitution. So people with a little bit of versatility is an advantage. Stu really has only played and trained at 12 and so that would mean we'd have to shift somebody else elsewhere.
"I don't know what calls there were on the outside for Jared to play full-back.
"We haven't trained with Jared at 15 so it would be a big step for us to suddenly change that. Rob Kearney trained on Monday and Simon Zebo (who starts) has played plenty of full-back for us.
"What we lack with Jared Payne not in the midfield has been particularly evident for us, particularly on the edge in defence. We're looking for him to control our defence again in the frontline."
Asked if he was concerned that, when the time does come for the up-and-coming talents of Irish rugby to make a consistent impact on the Test stage, they will be undercooked, Schmidt replied that they would have time with their province to build experience.
"I think they get a really good chance in European rugby. It is an opportunity that comes through forcing you way through those provincial opportunities.
"One of the things you can't suddenly do though is make someone as accomplished as the player who is currently there."
Noting that he has handed 21 players their Test debut during his two and half years in charge, Schmidt stressed that an international coach must balance the desire to blood youngsters with the reality that results are imperative.