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Ulster's Paddy Jackson gives Les Kiss many reasons to be cheerful as big matches loom


Jonathan Bradley

With the array of backline talent at his disposal, Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss believes Friday's win over Scarlets showed flashes of just the type of rugby he expects his side to play.

A first-half try from Louis Ludik was the product of a swift counter-attacking move and, while it was certainly a more disjointed fare after the turn, the return of out-half Paddy Jackson brought added fluidity to Ulster's game.

"I was really pleased with some of our linkage for sure," Kiss said.

"Louis' try speaks volumes for the work we've done in that area in the backs, working together and getting over the line which is good.

"The type of training you do comes through in the games. We did have a real strong focus on making sure our clean out was good because Scarlets have a real focus on the breakdown and that can make it difficult.

"But when we loosened up a bit and got our arms free we managed to get a few offloads away and it actually became our worst enemy at times because it took people out and left guys isolated and they got turned over."

With the score at just 11-3 in a game that was closer than it ought to have been until the final moments, All Black Charles Piutau produced an integral defensive stop, intercepting the pass of Aled Davies when Scarlets seemed certain to reduce the arrears to a solitary point.

"Charles comes through with a defensive play and that's the kind of thing you try to hone in training as well. That was a pretty crucial play for us as well," added Kiss.

It is not just without the ball that Piutau has been impressing his new boss, the full-back's threat exemplified by the league-leading eight defenders beaten over the weekend.

"Without a doubt he does (open up space). We've done a bit of chopping and changing in our backline and we haven't forged combinations as such but we'll probably get to that in the next two or three weeks," Kiss added.

"We've got a couple more guys back from international duty next week so again there'll be a few more changes.

"I still think besides that he's adding a lot of value to us.

"We had a little chuckle about the pass he threw to Louis that could have set him away (but flew into touch).

"He's just a beast really, he's a hard guy to contain and he does open space up without a doubt.

"I think he did some special things (against Scarlets) that prove his value. I think the better we get it, the better we do with the opportunities we create, the better we'll see from him, but we're really, really happy with how he's gone."

While three of his internationals - Rory Best, Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne - are yet to make their seasonal debut after taking part in Ireland's summer tour to South Africa, Kiss was able to welcome back man-of-the-match Jackson and try-scorer Iain Henderson for last Friday's victory and believes that the experience of his Test stars will make all the difference in the tough months ahead.

Ulster travel to Glasgow on Friday before welcoming the Ospreys - the first side in PRO12 history to take 15 points from their first three games - followed by a trip to champions Connacht.

From there, it is straight into Europe with a visit to Bordeaux and the hosting of Exeter Chiefs.

"(Their experience) will be massive," said Kiss. "But it's more important to reflect on the guys who stood in in the interim, they were exceptional. They're making it very difficult in terms of selection.

"I thought Hendy came on and was good in periods.

"The influence of Paddy was obvious, he had the ball on a string and he ran the ball well. In the second-half we maybe played a little bit too much in our half at times but they managed to keep on top of the right things that made us get out to the sidelines and run the ball down the wings.

"I thought he did really, really well at managing the game on his first start back this season.

"It was a really consummate performance from Paddy," he added.

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