Six Nations: Paddy Jackson handed fly-half role for Ireland

France travel to Dublin this weekend

Ireland have full confidence that Paddy Jackson will prove his mixed Test debut was only an aberration after entrusting their young Ulster fly-half with the kicking duties against France.

Jackson has been selected in the number 10 jersey for the RBS 6 Nations clash at the Aviva Stadium after passing a fitness test on the hamstring strain suffered during training on Monday.

Uncapped Leinster playmaker Ian Madigan will provide cover from a bench that includes Munster prop Stephen Archer, who fills the third and final slot left blank during Tuesday's team announcement.

Jackson's first cap was a mixture of good and bad as his promising touches in open play contrasted with a poor afternoon from the kicking tee that enabled Scotland to triumph 12-6.

The 21-year-old's nerves have since been settled after finishing with a 19-point haul, completing seven of nine shots at goal, while on Ulster duty last weekend.

Combined with his output in training over the last two days, that has been enough to win the vote of coach Declan Kidney with wing Fergus McFadden ready to take over should he misfire once again.

"Fergus is an option and that's why he went to the Aviva yesterday to practice. He's been very successful as a place kicker with Leinster," team manager Mick Kearney said.

"But Paddy is first choice and we have every confidence that he will perform in all facets of his game, including place kicking.

"If Ian comes on then we have full confidence in him as well. If Ian comes on he'll be place kicking as well."

Jackson was viewed as a minor doubt for Saturday's showdown between the two biggest flops of this year's Six Nations due to his hamstring complaint, but the injury has recovered quickly.

His availability means that Ireland enter a match they must win to avoid a wooden spoon decider against Italy with two fly-halves who have one cap between them.

"Paddy kicked in the Aviva Stadium yesterday and kicked well and trained fully this morning," Kearney said.

"Paddy's hamstring first tightened up after Monday's session so there was a bit of concern about him.

"He sat out the session on Tuesday, received treatment and did some light running in the afternoon.

"He then came through kicking at the Aviva Stadium yesterday afternoon very well, so that clarified things for us, but up until then there was some small doubt.

"There was no discomfort this morning so he'll be fine."

McFadden joined Jackson and Madigan during kicking practice at the Aviva Stadium with the management mindful that on Saturday he may be called upon to perform the role.

The 26-year-old, who has replaced groin-injury victim Craig Gilroy on the right wing, has been forced to wait patiently to win his 17th cap and is eager to prove to Kidney that he has been underused.

"It's a long championship and I knew that I just needed to bide my time," said McFadden, who won his last cap against Argentina in the autumn.

"Now my chance has come in a big game and I need to show that maybe I should have been there from the start.

"I like to think that I bring a bit more to the equation that place kicking. Paddy is the first choice kicker and we have full confidence in him.

"If I'm called upon to kick I'm more than confident to do it, but as it stands Paddy is kicking and the team is very confident about that."

Ireland team to face France at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, on Saturday March 9 (kick-off 5pm):

R Kearney (Leinster); F McFadden (Leinster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster), L Marshall (Ulster), K Earls (Munster); P Jackson (Ulster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), M McCarthy (Connacht), D Ryan (Munster), P O'Mahony (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster, capt).

Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), S Archer (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), I Henderson (Ulster), E Reddan (Leinster), I Madigan (Leinster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster).

PA

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