Outhalf Paddy Jackson will be ensuring his performances with Ulster in the remaining Heineken Cup pool matches plus the big RaboDirect PRO12 Irish derbies will do enough to get him at least a place on the bench for the Six Nations with Ireland.
The 21-year-old scored 18 points in last weekend’s 48-0 demolition of Benetton Treviso at Ravenhill to keep the Irish Province top of Pool Five with a 100 percent record.
Jackson’s form has been impressive and he continues to grow in confidence each week, controlling and running the backline well.
He has brought a new cutting edge to his game and his place kicking has been right up there after perhaps an indifferent start to the season.
During the November Test series with Ireland the youngster played in the opening match against Samoa and gave a confident display.
Having got little time in North America behind Leinster’s Ian Madigan on the summer tour, Jackson had since established himself as the number two behind Racing Metro’s Jonathan Sexton.
However, with Sexton’s return for the Australia game, Jackson found himself demoted out of the matchday 23 - Madigan getting a run from the bench, more so because he could cover 12 and 15 in the backline.
Ireland coach, Joe Schmidt, as good as admitted Jackson was number two to Sexton, but to cover his options he went with his former club player.
Sexton had to retire against Australia due to injury and it looked as though he would struggle to face the All Blacks.
Jackson basically trained in the week leading up to it as the starting outhalf - and then is left off completely because Madigan gives better coverage of the bench.
Jackson admitted there was a lot of disappointment for him only to be involved in the first international.
“Joe (Schmidt) explained the situation ahead of the Australia game and I fully understand where he was coming from.
“But looking ahead, yes it is something I would be worried about.
“I have not been playing 12 or 15 in the past but I would like to think if I was needed to cover those positions that I could.
“There is not a lot I can really do about it, but I just have to keep my focus on what I am doing with Ulster.
“If we continue to go well and I play my part in that and show Joe what I have then hopefully when it comes to the Six Nations, I might get the opportunity again.”
Ulster and Leinster are the current front runners in Europe, both with a 100 per cent record on top of their pools and both with 13 points.
The second legs of the back-to-back matches are down for debate this weekend and Jackson says that while Ulster were comfortable winners last week they are treating this game as another knockout match and expecting a tight battle with Treviso in their backyard.
“I think that 15 minute spell at the start of the second half showed what Treviso can do and I expected to see a lot more of that on Saturday,” Jackson said.
“We just have to go and play our own game again. We have focused on what we need to do and we are confident we can deliver.
“But we know we will have to work hard to get what we want.”