Paddy Jackson is thrilled with the way he is kicking at the moment but admitted he was unaware he is on a streak which has seen him land 33 out of 34 kicks for Ireland since last November.
The rich vein of form, which started with half a dozen conversions against Canada in November, continued in Japan on Saturday when he converted five tries and landed a penalty.
His only miss came when he was off target trying to convert Keith Earls’ try against Scotland, a day when Jackson scored his second international try in a haul of 12 points.
The 25-year-old has worked hard on his kicking but was surprised when it was pointed out to him just how good his form is with only one miss in the last 34 attempts.
“I didn’t know that. I am focused on the pitch, but off the pitch I don’t really look into it too much. I just try to play the game as it comes. It’s pretty cool though I will try and keep that going.
“Kicking, especially goal-kicking, has been a huge work-on for me from the get-go. Especially with Ruan (Pienaar) being there I missed out on a lot of kicking opportunities to grow.
“At times I was coming into international games not kicking for my province. Now I have stepped up and took hold of the reins and knew I needed to be getting that experience week in week out. It has paid off, and all of the help from the coaches back home, and Richie (Murphy, Irish kicking coach) who has helped me a lot here. It’s been good.
“You have just got to keep practising and trust. When I first started kicking I was just kicking the ball and hoping that it would go over.
“Whereas now I trust my routine and that practice and experience I am used to those environments now. Trust the routine, and if I can get my cues right the ball is going to go where I want it.
“It is a matter of experience and every kicker has been there. I am sure I am going to be there again at some stage. Every kicker has an off-day. Once you know you can bounce back from it there is not too much to worry about,” said Jackson.
He is poised to win his 25th Irish cap next Saturday when the curtain comes down on the season with the concluding test against Japan at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo, the venue where the opening ceremony and first match of the 2019 Rugby World Cup will take place.
Jackson believes there will be a response from Japan after the 50-22 outcome on Saturday, and he has no doubt about their physicality, having been left black and blue after a few serious hits.
“I got destroyed on a couple of occasions. A few big hits which I usually try and stay away from but I think they were out to get me. They got a couple of good shots on me but thankfully I was able to stay on the pitch.
“Everyone wants to finish on a high. Japan will be coming out all guns blazing looking to get one up on us. Everyone will be fairly focused. There’s definitely a few things from last week which we can do better. Even though we had a very good scoreline I don’t think we had much real attacking set-piece. Our scrum was very solid but a lot of our play came from turnovers and loose balls and stuff like that. If we can get a bit of set-piece together that will be good.
“Phase play as well. If we can get that right we should be in for a good game.”
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