Brian O’Driscoll has predicted Ireland’s debutant fly-half Paddy Jackson will flourish against Scotland after rejecting criticism of his performance in last year’s Heineken Cup final.
Jackson will pull the strings in Sunday’s Six Nations clash at Murrayfield after he was chosen ahead of Ronan O’Gara to cover for the injured Jonathan Sexton.
While the 21-year-old is viewed as a potential star of Irish rugby, he crumbled on his biggest match to date when Ulster were routed 42-14 by Leinster in their European final at Twickenham in May.
Substituted early in the second half and later cast as villain of the piece, the misfiring outside-half endured a chastening afternoon that he now considers a valuable experience.
But from his vantage point in the opposing midfield that day, O’Driscoll saw enough to conclude that the negative appraisals of Jackson were unjustified.
“I heard Paddy talking about the learning curve from the Heineken Cup final,” said the Lions centre.
“In fact, I think some of the stuff written about him in that game was very harsh. He really didn’t have that off a game.
“There were a couple of skewed kicks, but that was the extent of it. He did the fundamental things like tackling well. He passes the ball nicely and takes it to the line.
“He was an easy out for people. Not that he got scapegoated, but 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.
“That was eight months ago and you’ve seen his performances throughout the year.
“It certainly hasn’t affected him in any way, shape or form and he deserves his opportunity.