HEINEKEN CUP POOL FIVE:
Treviso v Ulster
Ireland fly-half Paddy Jackson is in a good place at present.
Not that he was ever in a bad place mentally, even when some media hounds attempted to tear him apart bit by bit last season. But the baby-faced 21-year-old from Belfast was able to bat away the heavy hits like a seasoned professional and then signal that he is now well and truly hitting the sweet spot with his kicking and organising.
He’s been pulling the strings behind Ulster’s dominant pack of late and plans to do it again this afternoon when Mark Anscombe’s unchanged side visit Treviso stronghold in Italy. Jackson is obviously a little wary, but hoping they can produce a similar performance that saw them romp home 48-0 at Ravenhill last week to keep their 100% record in Pool 5.
“We certainly can’t be complacent out in the Italy,” said Jackson who won the first of his five caps in that rather ill-fated debut against Scotland last February. “There is no way it is going to be as easy as last week. Treviso have been playing so well at home lately, and all this season nobody has come away with an easy win. I think that 15 minute spell at the start of the second half showed what Treviso can do and I expected to see a lot more of that.
“It’s all about playing territory to bring our pack into the game. Ruan [Pienaar] and myself will be attempting to do that to put them on the front foot. Things are going well and we are winning and putting together some very good performances, and hopefully that will continue,” said Jackson who typically exudes a confidence that belies his youth.
“Personally, I’ve always been happy with my game. You always have things to work on, and I have been putting a lot of effort into training. Being the one expecting to pull the strings is a part of the game I love, being in charge and putting my own influence on the game and getting the team in certain parts of the park. I’m really enjoying that and feel pretty confident doing it as well.
“We have plenty of pace out wide and plenty of options elsewhere. We are holding on to the ball much better than last season. We still have some sloppy errors, but that is something we have been trying to iron out. The more we hold on to the ball, the more we are at our best. Our accuracy was a bit off at the start of the season, but now that we are in our stride, things are coming together.
“I suppose that is down to the way we are putting so much more pressure on each other in training. That means not letting those little things go by the way and being a bit harder on ourselves.
“As far as my present form is concerned, it is something I knew would always come. My confidence is helped by the team. It’s a fairly young squad and we are getting more experience together and building things quite nicely.”
Jackson was disappointed at not involved to two of the Autumn Test match-day squads, but knows Ian Madigan can cover a number of positions in the backline.
“Joe [Schmidt] explained the situation ahead of the Australia game and I fully understood where he was coming from. Looking ahead, yes, it is something I would be thinking about I have not been playing 12 or 15 in the past, but I would like to think if I was needed to cover those positions. that I could. There is not a lot I can really do about it, but I just have to keep my focus on what I am doing with Ulster.
“If we continue to go well and I play my part in that and show Joe what I have then hopefully when it comes to the Six Nations, I might get the opportunity again.”
Ulster, like Leinster, are the current front runners in the Heineken with an unblemished record and both with 13 points.
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