Monday, February 06, 2017

Paddy Jackson: The New Face of Irish Rugby?

"The fabulous Aviva Stadium" (CC BY 2.0) by rsuplido

Move over Jonathan Sexton, this is Paddy Jackson’s time to shine.

Sexton’s calf injury has handed Jackson the opportunity to showcase his talent on the big stage – and that is exactly what he did during Ireland’s opening weekend clash with Scotland. Joe Schmidt’s men fell short at Murrayfield but Jackson was one of the standout performers on the day; making a number of key decisions that had the Scots scrambling in defence.

Jackson has already earned 20 caps for Ireland since making his debut against Scotland back in the 2013 Six Nations Championship but he could now be set to hold down a regular spot in the Irish line-up. Sexton looks set to miss Ireland’s trip to Italy this weekend and a return to the fray for their clash with France on February 25th might be more realistic.

Sexton’s absence will give Jackson another chance to impress and he will be looking to add to his already impressive points tally for the national side. Jackson touched down for a try in Saturday’s defeat to Scotland but was unable to help Ireland over the line despite a much better effort in the second half.

If truth be told, it would be fair to suggest that Ireland missed Sexton’s game management skills on the opening weekend but Jackson will improve on that front given time. When it comes to controlling territory and exploiting defensive gaps in the kicking game, Sexton is up there with the best players on the planet and Jackson’s own game should develop as he continues to learn from the Leinster man.

🏉 (@SkySportsRugby) June 9, 2016

At 31 years old, the sands of time are running out on Sexton’s international career and Jackson, six years his junior, is primed to take over as Ireland’s number 10. He will never be able to directly replace the great man in the fly-half position but Jackson offers Schmidt a new dimension and Ireland could benefit from a slight change in strategy.

That opening day defeat to Scotland has hindered their chances but victories over England and France in Dublin will boost Ireland’s hopes of securing a third Six Nations crown in four years. Ireland have lost a number of key personalities to retirement in recent years but the young crop of talent coming through can step up and be counted in the coming weeks.

The likes of Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll are almost irreplaceable but this new-look Irish side is full of vigour and courage. As of February 6th, Ireland are 11/2 to win the tournament in the rugby betting markets with Paddy Power and Jackson must emerge as a leader to his peers if Schmidt’s men are to stand any chance of success.

So Paddy Jackson, this is your moment. Fly out to Rome and lead Ireland to a convincing win against Italy and give Schmidt something to think about. When fit, Sexton is on another level but a few solid showings this year will help Jackson develop further as he bids to take the Irish number 10 jersey for good.


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