Jonathan Sexton may remain intrinsic to Joe Schmidt’s Ireland plans but Conor Murray is confident Paddy Jackson is ready and able to step into the elder man’s shoes if required during the Six Nations.
Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins was among those to spell out Sexton’s continued importance to Ireland in recent weeks, but the Leinster playmaker will be under the spotlight in the games to come having suffered with form and injury in the last six months.
And with Ian Madigan’s Test ambitions jeopardised by his impending switch to France with Bordeaux and Jackson enjoying a sustained run of impressive form, it is the Ulster 10 who looks to be in position to profit as the beginning of the championship beckons.
Murray knows Jackson’s capabilities well. He was the scrum-half who chaperoned the younger Jackson through his international baptism when Declan Kidney chucked him and Luke Marshall into the fray for the Six Nations meeting with Scotland three years ago.
“I was on the same training team as him today and he’s really stepped up his knowledge,” said Murray.
“He’s really vocal — as much as Johnny is — so, like any position in our squad, there’s huge competition.
“Because it’s out-half it is under the spotlight more, but if Paddy gets his chance — whether it’s starting or off the bench — he’s ready and in great form.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved