Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt believes Paddy Jackson has shown enough class to make a huge impact when they face the Springboks in their upcoming three-Test series.
The loss of experienced playmaker Johnny Sexton, who was ruled out of the Test series due to a shoulder injury which will keep him on the sidelines for up to three months, was a big setback for Ireland.
Ian Madigan has subsequently been called up to the 32-man as Sexton’s replacement.
Schmidt affirmed his decision to include Jackson ahead of Bordeaux-Bègles-bound Madigan by pointing out the fine form that the young fly-half has been having with Ulster, despite Madigan previously getting the nod ahead of Jackson.
The absence of some of Ulster’s regulars, like Rory Best, allowed the Jackson to step up and improve his leadership ability.
“I don’t think we can live with regrets,” Schmidt told the Belfast Telegraph.
“At the time Johnny played really well and we needed the multi-cover off the bench from Ian Madigan because we tended to lose players during those games.
“At the same time, Paddy was in and out of camp during that time so he was certainly up to speed in terms of what we were doing. There was probably a real upsurge in his form.
“He was running a team (Ulster) that he was the experienced player in. The old guys like Rory (Best) weren’t there. He really took the team by the scruff of the neck and I think he grew during that period.
“There is always a silver lining and Paddy made the most of that. That showed in his end of season form.”