Ulster boss Anscombe turns to his under-fire No 10 for kicking duties

Ireland’s latest No 10 Paddy Jackson gets an immediate chance to put last Sunday’s nightmare at Murrayfield behind him when he starts for Ulster in Friday’s RaboDirect Pro12 clash against Treviso at Ravenhill — where he will take over all kicking duties from his half-back partner, Ruan Pienaar.

The 21-year-old, who was making his full Ireland debut against Scotland at the weekend, came in for some harsh criticism following his display in the 12-8 defeat in Edinburgh but still has the backing of his provincial boss. Ireland head coach Declan Kidney came under fire for selecting a player who was not even the No 1 kicker in his own province.

However, Mark Anscombe has now agreed Jackson does need more exposure, despite the obvious attributes of South African Pienaar.

He said: “We offered the chance for Paddy to play this week and take on the kicking duties.

“Paddy has kicked well for us this year, but there is a reason why we changed at the time we did.

“For a start, Paddy’s form dipped a little and the fact is that Ruan is a real weapon for us in that he can kick goals from 55 metres, Paddy does not!

“So, in effect, Ruan would get one or two kicks a game from 55 metres and he wasn’t getting them on target. We weren’t giving him a chance to get them with the odd kick, so the best way for a goal-kicker to be on song is to give him the ball.

“Ruan is an outstanding goal-kicker and has a range a damn sight longer than Paddy’s and to get full advantage of that we believed by him kicking regularly that would help him,” added Anscombe, who also addressed some of the criticism levelled at Jackson since last Sunday.

“That’s the thing that happens in sport, you are either a hero or not,” he said. “The fact is we are all judged on performances. Paddy was thrown into the semi-final and final of the Heineken Cup last season and people made a meal of it. But Paddy bounced back, he is a resilient sort of a fella.

“Look, he did some good things at the weekend and remember, he’s only 21 and his game is still growing. We have the utmost time for Paddy as he works very hard and I believe he has a fine future ahead of him.

“We have to be supportive of him and we are really grateful to have him back for Friday night and hopefully get him back on the horse and do the business for us. He is very much a key ingredient of our team.

“I spoke to him briefly on his return yesterday and he was jovial and bubbly. He bounces back fairly quickly.

“I don’t know what the chances are for Johnny Sexton returning for the next Test [against France in Dublin on Saturday week], but if he is not available, it would be pretty hard on Paddy if he wasn’t given a second chance.”

However, the New Zealand-born coach revealed for another Paddy, the season is over.

Anscombe said he was as surprised as anybody when he learned late on Monday night that Paddy Wallace required surgery on a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee following the game against Glasgow last Friday evening.

The injury rules out the 34-year-old, who is just 12 caps shy of making 200 appearances for the province, for the remainder of the season and represents a massive blow to Ulster’s Heineken Cup and Rabo hopes.

“Paddy has been bloody good for us this season,” said Anscombe. “I’ve never known anything like it in my lifetime with the amount of ACL injuries. I think we have four or five this season, and normally maybe you would get one maybe every year or two. But to have this many is unheard of. Why? I have just no idea. Bad luck, misfortune or whatever.”

Anscombe, however, welcomes back Iain Henderson and Declan Fitzpatrick from international duty as well as lock Lewis Stevenson, who was 24th man for the trip to Murrayfield.

ULSTER (squad v Treviso): R Herring, N Brady, N Annett, R Lutton, D Fitzpatrick, C Black, J Afoa, N McComb, L Stevenson, I Henderson, D Tuohy, M McComish, A Birch, R Diack; R Pienaar, P Marshall, M Heaney, N O’Connor, S Olding, P Jackson, M Allen, A Trimble, C Cochrane, D Cave, R Andrew.

Jackson has bright future for Ireland, declares O’Driscoll

Paddy Jackson’s future as an Ireland out-half remains bright despite his mixed fortunes on his senior international debut. So believes the oldest man in a very young back line last Sunday. Brian O’Driscoll was impressed with the Ulster man’s general play against Scotland and also lauded his kicking to touch, even if his lack of practice off the tee meant that he failed to kick his goals “the way Irish 10s are expected to”.

“I don’t envy those goals kickers,” he said. “Your first one in your first test match 40 yards out, 20 metres to the right, it’s not an easy kick. I don’t have great worries about Paddy because I really like him as a player. He’s and lovely footballer and good footballers tend to stay the course.”

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