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RugbyU: Ireland put faith in Jackson vibe against Scots

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Paddy Jackson will look to repay the trust shown him by coach Declan Kidney when he makes his Test debut for an injury-hit Ireland away to Scotland in the Six Nations at Murrayfield on Sunday.

With regular fly-half Jonathan Sexton one of several Ireland players ruled out through injury after a bruising 12-6 defeat by England in Dublin, Kidney -- often regarded as a conservative coach -- could simply have called up veteran stand-off Ronan O'Gara.

But for all he is Ireland's most-capped player, O'Gara faltered when he came off the bench to replace the injured Sexton at Lansdowne Road against England and Kidney has now made the bold call to throw talented 21-year-old Ulsterman Jackson straight in at the deep end of international rugby.

"Paddy's inclusion was a challenge given the stature of Ronan O'Gara, but I think Paddy deserves a go," said Kidney, who has kept O'Gara on the bench.

However, Jackson's previous taste of the big stage saw him suffer a nightmare match, with the stand-off substituted early in the second half of Ulster's 42-14 European Cup final defeat by Irish rivals Leinster at Twickenham in May.

However, Ireland great Brian O'Driscoll -- an opponent then but a Test team-mate now -- insisted Jackson didn't have as bad a match as reported and was a better player for the experience.

"There were a couple of skewed kicks, but that was the extent of it," said Lions centre O'Driscoll.

"He did the fundamental things like tackling well. He passes the ball nicely and takes it to the line.

"Some of the pressure put on him and things written about him were unfair. And that's coming from someone who was playing against him."

"It certainly hasn't affected him in any way, shape or form and he deserves his (Ireland) opportunity."

Ireland were forced into making five changes after injuries took a toll of their side in a bruising loss to England, with Jackson's Ulster team-mate Luke Marshall also making his Test debut in place of the injured Gordon D'Arcy.

Meanwhile, Tom Court replaced Cian Healy after the loosehead prop was suspended for stamping on England's Dan Cole and lock Donncha O'Callaghan came in after Mike McCarthy was ruled out with a knee injury.

This match sees Scotland, who finished with the wooden spoon last season, having to prove they can cope with the burden of hope after a 34-10 defeat of Italy last time out.

Australian interim Scotland head coach Scott Johnson has made just one change to his side, with Geoff Cross replacing Euan Murray in the front row because the latter's Christian beliefs mean he refuses to play on Sundays.

Turning possession into points has long been a problem for Scotland but with Dutchman Tim Visser and New Zealand-born Sean Maitland on the wings in a back three also featuring Stuart Hogg, the team have run in six tries in their last two matches.

But that did not distract Johnson from hammering home his oft-repeated theme that it is how they fare at the breakdown that will determine the outcome of Scotland's matches.

"I make no apology for saying again that we have to step up our work in the contact area," Johnson said.

As a back-row forward, Scotland captain Kelly Brown is well aware of his breakdown responsibilities and the Saracens flanker insisted complacency wouldn't be an issue.

"As a squad there is no danger of us getting carried away with one match; it was our first (Six Nations) win in two years," Brown said. "So we need to bring in a bit of realism.

"But as a squad we are very grounded and the boys are working hard. I just want us to keep on improving. If we can do that and nail a really high level of performance on Sunday, then we can put Ireland under pressure."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130222/rugbyu-ireland-put-faith-jackson-vibe-against-scots