Heineken Cup Semi-Final Reaction: Paddy Jackson

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Twenty year old out-half Paddy Jackson made his first Heineken Cup start on Saturday in front of a crowd of more than 47,000 at the Aviva Stadium;

“I was quite relaxed in the run-up to the game at the hotel. I actually watched Ballymena in the All-Ireland Cup on RTE beforehand so I was just relaxing in my room”

Jackson, cool and calm all last week in the run-up to the game does admit to beginning to feel the nerves on approach to the stadium;

“Things really started to kick in when we walked out of the hotel to the bus. Everyone was outside and the streets were lined with Ulster fans. I sat beside Craig Gilroy on the coach on the way to the stadium and we were both just fascinated by the amount of Ulster supporters on the streets. I couldn’t stop smiling but at the same time, I was beginning to feel a bit nervous. It’s definitely the most nervous I’ve been for a game but semi-finals are like that aren’t they? A bit nervy? Mainly everyone just wants to get it through it.”

One of his stand-out memories from the day was walking out of the tunnel;

“Walking out the tunnel, I can picture the scene perfectly, the wall of Ulster supporters in front of us but most of all I remember the thousands of Ulster flags people were waving

As we walked out onto the pitch ahead of kick-off, Rory Best pulled me over and put me in front of him – I was going to let him, as a senior player go first, but he stepped in behind me and put his hand on my shoulder and stayed close to me. Looking back on it now I realise what he was up to, he just want to give me that extra bit of reassurance because he knew what we were about to face both in terms of atmopshere and opposition.”

“The game went so quickly at the start, Edinburgh just kep coming at us and we were never so far ahead that we could ever relax. We defended for around 30 minutes of the first half, it was the hardest game I’ve ever played in, the amount of tackles we had to put in. But Ruan made my life so much easier on the day, he kept the scoreboard ticking over and just really took the pressure off me.

“It was so noisy that it was difficult to hear the voices of experience around me but just knowing they were there was a help – I thought Darren Cave, and his defence in particular, was outstanding.”

“After the game I saw a few famililar faces in the crowd. Doing lap of honour at the Aviva Stadium was very surreal, almost unbelieveable – without a doubt the highlight of my career so far.”

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