Jackson just needs to believe, says flanker

On a day Paddy Jackson was again handed the Irish No 10 shirt for the Six Nations meeting with France, the Ulster youngster was backed by colleagues to stand up to the French juggernaut.

Jackson passed a fitness test on the minor hamstring strain sustained on Monday. Ian Madigan offers cover from the bench with Jonathan Sexton still sidelined and Ronan O’Gara seemingly put out to grass by under-fire coach Declan Kidney.

Continuing the youthful theme, manager Mick Kearney revealed Munster prop Stephen Archer will fill the third vacancy to facilitate the injured Declan Fitzpatrick.

Notwithstanding Jackson’s lack of goal-kicking success in Murrayfield a fortnight ago, Kidney has again rolled the dice by putting a second unproven out-half into the line of fire in Madigan.

The Leinster player is grossly lacking experience at this level yet there appeared to be unity in the Ireland camp at Carton House yesterday and a certainty that Jackson’s goal-kicking expertise will come to the fore.

As far as Jackson’s general play is concerned, Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony has no doubts about his valid credentials: “Paddy has played in a Heineken Cup final and in that same competition for a year or more at this stage.

“I don’t think he needs any advice from me. I can put my hand on his shoulder and say I’ll be there for him but that’s about all I can tell him.”

Yes, O’Mahony believes, France are likely to target the newcomer but equally the flanker figures it could be a waste of time.

“Obviously you would have a game plan around it and you’d be running down his channel and all these things, but I keep saying he is well able to tackle, well able to look after himself and he has Lukie [Marshall] outside him.

“He [Marshall] is 100 kilos, a big lump of a young fella. The back row will be looking after him. The whole pack will be there so he doesn’t have to worry about that kind of stuff, he just needs to back himself.

“He’s a good footballer, all he needs to do now is back himself, have confidence in his ability and he will do fine.

“He is a great tackler, brave, a fabulous distributor and really, it’s only about backing himself and he will do well.”

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