WHILE JOE SCHMIDT came up with most of the right answers during the third match of his opening series as Ireland head coach, there was one decision which left heads being scratched.
Nowhere more so than in the northern province as Ulster’s 21-year-old out-half Paddy Jackson was omitted from the squads to face Australia and New Zealand having started and impressed against Samoa.
Schmidt made it clear that Jackson was his second choice starting 10, but once Jonathan Sexton was passed fit, the role of covering for the Racing Metro man went to Ian Madigan.
Schmidt admitted the decision was down to Madigan’s versatility in that he has played at fullback and inside centre for the Kiwi coach while at Leinster.
Jackson, however, will not be taking that decision lying down.
“I thought I might have done enough to be in the match-day squad for the Australia game,” Jackson said in an interview for yesterday’s match programme before winning his 40th provincial cap while demolishing Treviso.
“Joe took me to one side and explained that Ian had played a lot at 12 and 15 and that he would give good cover.
“I don’t really want to be in that position again. I have played 12 and 15 before and I would like to think that in the future if I as needed I could be used in those positions off the bench.
“If I can show my attacking game a bit more – that would help.”
Jackson is currently the best number 10 left in Ireland, so the problem for him now is that he will only play in that position for his province. So if Schmidt uses the same selection criteria for his bench during the Six Nations then it leaves Jackson in a straight shoot-out with Lions out-half Jonathan Sexton for the pivot position.
Despite the understandable slight sense of frustration, Jackson added that Schmidt is ‘brilliant to work with’ and expressed an eagerness to continue learning his trade with every chance given to him at Carton House.
“I have seen how [Schmidt] has helped Jonny and Ian at Leinster in recent years“, Jackson added, “so I just thought I would try and learn as much as I can off him.
“Any questions you have, he is happy to answer. I have found he really focus on the little things that help in your game.”