'He's an international quality ten': Declan Kidney's take on the current form of exiled Ireland out-half Paddy Jackson
With Ireland continuing to struggle to find a long-term successor at Test level to veteran out-half Johnny Sexton, Declan Kidney has lauded the recent Gallagher Premiership form of Paddy Jackson who had his Ulster contract terminated by the IRFU in April 2018.
Handed a Test debut in 2013 by Kidney during his final season at the helm in Ireland, Jackson was the established back-up to Sexton until he was sacked by his employers despite being found not guilty of raping a young student at a house party in Belfast.
Jackson restarted his career with a difficult Top 14 season in France with relegated Perpignan but he was then snapped up by Kidney at London Irish and while it has taken him some time to find top form, he has been a pivotal reason why the Exiles club have recently climbed up the Premiership table with three wins and two comeback draws in their last six outings.
With Ireland struggling for options beneath Sexton, something that was very evident in the recent Guinness Six Nations loss to France where Billy Burns started and Ross Byrne provided bench back-up, Jackson’s name has cropped up in the ongoing debate.
Jackson is ineligible for Test squad selection due to playing his club rugby outside of the island of Ireland – the IRFU haven’t picked a non-Irish based player since Sexton was away at Racing during the 2015 Six Nations.
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However, that stipulation hasn’t disguised the rich form he is currently enjoying in the Premiership at the age of 29, nearly four years after he won the last of his 25 caps in a June 2017 tour win over Japan. Choosing his words carefully about a player whose court case and subsequent exit from Ulster generated a massive media spotlight in 2018, Kidney said: “Paddy is a very good rugby player. We knew that and we wanted to bring in an out-half with experience.
“Both myself and Les (Kiss, his ex-Ulster boss and an Ireland assistant) knew him and we asked him to join us. He has joined in and I suppose he is not doing anything we didn’t think he was well capable of. It seems a very bland answer but you probably wouldn’t expect anything else from me on that particular topic.
“He is an international ten, he is an international quality ten. That is not in dispute. He is just in his prime and he is playing accordingly, I think,” continued Kidney. “He is a good player, yeah, but there is nothing he is doing that I didn’t think he was capable of doing.
“There was probably a couple of other areas he can add to his bow then too. I think his playing was truncated. He was at full-back a lot when he was at Perpignan and then when he was with us as well then too, we had Stephen Myler with us and we had a bit of 15/10 but there is a longer run there now at 10 and he is getting into the grove of that there more and more each game. I’m afraid that is as close to the beach that I will get to you.”
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