Paddy Jackson will restart the English Gallagher Premiership season tomorrow with Les Kiss believing the fly-half can drive London Irish onto great things.
The former Ulster and Ireland playmaker signed for the Exiles last summer from Perpignan but injury and the Covid-19 pandemic have restricted him to just six appearances for head coach Kiss and director of rugby Declan Kidney.
Yet former Ireland defence coach and Ulster head coach Kiss is confident the enforced break has been a blessing for Jackson and the 28-year-old is now in a position alongside a rejuvenated Sean O’Brien to lift the club to another level, starting with tomorrow’s trip to Bath, the first of nine games remaining in the Premiership’s 2019-20 season.
“It was unfortunate he got injured early in the year. He was going bloody brilliantly then,” Kiss said.
“I’m not saying this is an ideal break for him, I think he would have preferred to play but he was just coming back from a hamstring injury. We now know that is totally in a good place now, touch wood.
“I don’t like to put pressure on guys but I know he is hungry and champing at the bit to deliver what he can for a bunch of blokes that he’s been working with for the last 18 months. He’s in good fettle. His skill set is sublime, his speed is looking fantastic. He’s driving the team around the park, he’s mentoring a couple of young guys we’ve got here. He’s in his element at the moment.
“I’ve just got to say he’s in a good place but we know this game. One game can put you on your arse and then you’re trying to say, ‘well, what’s going on here?’ But he’s a resilient lad and he’s done exceptionally well.”
London Irish will restart the campaign in eighth place, just seven points outside the top four that are guaranteed play-off berths and Kiss believes Jackson is the key to a successful end of season run-in.
“The players have bought into him and really the type of game I’d like the boys to play is around the strengths that him and Sean have, without a doubt. You throw the other guys we have here and I think some things can happen but there’s no doubt a lot of it will revolve around what Paddy does.”