Ulster Rugby vs Clermont

PADDY JACKSON Having steered Ireland so majestically to a maiden win in South Africa during the summer tour, Paddy Jackson further underlined his quality as a world class out-half during the Autumn Series, when he helped Ireland become the first northern hemisphere side since 2003 to beat the ‘big three’ of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in the same calendar year.

“I really enjoyed the series,” says Paddy. “With Johnny (Sexton) in such good form, I wasn’t sure that I would get that much game time, so to get 70 minutes against Canada and to play against New Zealand in Dublin was pretty incredible. It was unfortunate for Johnny to pick up an injury early against New Zealand so I was certainly thrown in earlier than expected, but it is such a special feeling to wear the green jersey and I just tried to make the most of it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t match the result from Chicago a couple of weeks earlier but it was the first time I have played against the All Blacks, so it was a really good experience. I was really happy with my performances and how the games went, then getting the win in the final game against Australia topped everything off.” While the victory over Australia signalled the final result in the historic treble, it also marked Ireland captain Rory Best’s 100th international cap, and Jackson was delighted to be able to celebrate it alongside his fellow Ulster man: “It was a great day and we obviously all wanted to win but everyone wanted to make it extra special for Rory. We talked about it beforehand, we were all playing for him. We knew his whole family were there, the kids and Jodie and it was amazing to see the kids running out with him and stand beside him for the anthems. Afterwards was really special when we all got to celebrate with him.” Jackson and Best were among the five Ulster players who started against Australia, and Jackson noted that it is great to see his club mates being recognised at international level: “Year on year we are getting more guys involved in the Ireland set up. It is always good to get out there with your fellow Ulster players and it shows the increase in competitiveness here and that

the skills are being recognised by the national set up, which is great. I know from working with the (Ulster) boys on a daily basis just how good they are, so I’m delighted to see them getting that recognition on the bigger stage.” For Jackson and co, there is little time to dwell on the international success as they return this weekend for a huge Champions Cup showdown with French Top 14 league leaders Clermont at Kingspan Stadium. “I had a week off last week to rest the body, but these back-to-back Clermont games have been in the back of my mind. It is going to be a tough test. They are one of the best teams in Europe, so we are going to have to be on top of our game to get the win. It will be a fast, physical challenge but training has gone well this week and hopefully we can carry that momentum into the game.” “We will certainly take some confidence from the win (away to Cardiff) last weekend. I thought the guys started very well, but some ill-discipline and small errors let Cardiff back into the game. However, to finish off with a bonus point win was a great start to the Christmas run in, especially after missing out on a game against Zebre.” The trip to Cardiff was Ulster’s first game in four weeks, due to the Autumn Series and the postponed Zebre game, and Jackson admits the team were raring to get back on the pitch following two successive defeats: “Coming into the international break we were left disappointed by the Munster and Edinburgh games, which was hard to take. Now after gaining some momentum in Cardiff we can get our performances together and the wins should follow. It’s great to be back with Ulster and I’m looking forward to the next run of games.”




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