Friday 21 October 2016

Added spice for contest to be Sexton's understudy

The stunning late season form of Paddy Jackson has added spice to the contest to back-up Jonathan Sexton at the World Cup.

Previously, Ian Madigan's versatility and exquisite goal-kicking were deemed feature attractions for coach Joe Schmidt as both prepare for The Barbarians tomorrow.

Since the close of the Six Nations, Ulster's Jackson has moved out from under the wing of Ruan Pienaar to guide Ulster to the PRO12 semi-finals and within a whisker of the final itself.

"I think he's done some nice things at the back end of the season in terms of playing footie," said Ireland defence coach Les Kiss.

Last Saturday, Munster's Ian Keatley put on display his fragility in the goal-kicking and playmaking areas.

The fact the ex-Belvedere College out-half has previously recovered his form within the confines of a week bodes well for Munster's PRO12 final against Glasgow at Kingspan Stadium this Saturday.

However, it does replant a seed of doubt for the Autumn.

It could just take one off-day to extinguish Ireland's ambitions should something misfortunate befall Sexton.

The silky skills of Madigan were at the heart of Leinster's exposition on Edinburgh on the last day of the regular season.

"It was great to see him playing well in that last match," said Kiss.

"When you're at twelve these days and you do play like a first and second receiver, in that sense, you're not far away from the action anyway.

"For him to run the game at ten was great. In terms of opportunities for him to play some more, we thought this was the opportunity for him rather than the Emerging (tour).

"He's played a lot of minutes this year and he's trained a lot of minutes. He's a resilient young man and a very good player. We thought it best that we run it that way."

Kiss stands firm behind the opinion that Madigan's use at twelve for Leinster will not damage his prospects at ten for Ireland.

"No, I don't think so in all honesty. We know the strengths that he has. Are they complete? No," added Kiss.

"But not many players can say they're the complete player and he certainly has things to implement."

The question is: who will implement the plan tomorrow? Madigan or Jackson.

RUGby: ireland v barbarians

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