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Rugby | Six Nations

Paddy Jackson © Gallo Images

Ireland put faith in Jackson

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 flyhalf Jonathan Sexton one of several Ireland players ruled out through injury after a bruising 12-6 defeat by England, 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.

Ireland were forced into making five changes after injuries took a toll of their side in a bruising defeat by England in Dublin with Jackson's Ulster teammate Luke Marshall also making his test debut in place of the injured Gordon D'Arcy.

Meanwhile, the pack showed two changes, with Tom Court replacing Cian Healy after the loosehead prop was suspended for stamping on England's Dan Cole and lock Donncha O'Callaghan coming in for Mike McCarthy, out with a knee injury.

But in the midst of all the medical mayhem, Brian O'Driscoll remains a reassuring figure.

The 34-year-old stalwart was subdued by England but, rather like Ireland in general, the talismanic centre is not known for having back-to-back quiet matches and for all he has hinted at retirement, teammate Keith Earls sees no reason why O'Driscoll couldn't feature at the 2015 World Cup in England.

"Brian was amazing (in the win) against Wales," said the Munster back, who will be making his first start of this year's Six Nations in place of injured wing Simon Zebo.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he goes on until the next World Cup – he's feeling fresh and is buzzing. He has no fear, but is also very intelligent in the way he thinks about the game.

"His presence lifts you because you know he's willing to do anything for you and the team. It makes you want to do the same for him."

For Scotland, who finished with the wooden spoon last season, this match seems them having to prove they can cope with the burden of hope.

Despair has long been the default position of Scotland fans during recent dire Six Nations campaigns, but Sunday's match will see them in the unusual position of willing their side to back-up a win 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.

"It's a vast improvement from where we have been in the past in terms of finishing," said Visser.

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. "Yes, we've some talented athletes in the squad, but we have to give them the opportunities."


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