Jackson to take over kicking duties
Paddy Jackson, who endured a poor day with the boot on Sunday against Scotland with only one successful attempt from four in the 12-8 defeat, gets the chance for extra practice when he takes over place-kicking duties for Ulster on Friday night.
A fortnight later than would be considered ideal, Paddy Jackson will take control of all kicking duties for Ulster against Treviso at Ravenhill on Friday night.
Everyone was singing off the same hymn sheet yesterday. All three parties involved have taken credit for the idea that the incumbent Irish place-kicker should perform these duties for his province.
Jackson asked to be released to play for Ulster, obviously keen to get back on the horse having missed three from four shots at goal in his Ireland debut against Scotland last Sunday.
The Irish management desperately need the 21-year-old to get in some place-kicking practice, in a competitive environment, as it remains unlikely that Jonathan Sexton will recover from a hamstring tear to face France on March 9th.
Also, Ulster coach Mark Anscombe has, albeit belatedly, no problem taking the kicking tee off his Springbok half-back Ruan Pienaar. “We offered it,” said Anscombe yesterday. “Paddy has kicked well for us this year,” the Kiwi continued.
“We changed at the time because Paddy’s form dipped a little, but also Ruan is a weapon for us and can kick goals from 55 yards.
“Ruan would get one or two kicks a game from distance and not get them. We weren’t giving him a chance throwing him the ball the odd time during a match.
“The best way for a goal kicker to be on song is to get into a rhythm. Ruan is an outstanding goal kicker and has a longer range than Paddy. To take full advantage of that, we needed to have Ruan kicking regularly to help him.”
Jackson is the only player from the Ireland starting XV against Scotland to be released for Pro12 action this weekend. He is expected to join the other 14 at Carton House tomorrow, departing early on Friday to link up with Ulster in Belfast.
Anscombe was asked yesterday if Ireland coach Declan Kidney put Jackson in a difficult position by asking him to place-kick against Scotland, considering his lack of practice.
“That’s unfair for me to answer. It’s not my team to select. Declan had his reasons to put him in. He is there to do his job. It’s easy to be critical not knowing what’s going on.
“Paddy will be a great player. He is still growing and developing and will be stronger from all these challenges he’s had at a young age.
“He was thrown into the semi-final and final of the Heineken Cup last year and people made a meal out of that, but he bounced back. He is a resilient fella.”