Scotland v Italy, Six Nations, Murrayfield, March 19
Jackson brimming with confidence
March 14, 2011
Jackson slots a drop goal during his side's Six Nations defeat to England at Twickenham © Getty Images
Ruaridh Jackson is confident he can build on his coming-of-age performance against England and condemn Italy to the Six Nations Wooden Spoon.
Two weeks on from his error-strewn first Test start against Ireland, Jackson fully justified Andy Robinson's faith in him with an ice-cool display in yesterday's Calcutta Cup defeat at Twickenham. The 23-year-old fly-half competently executed the expansive gameplan Robinson is trying to develop, an approach that was criticised in some quarters following the Ireland defeat.
But Scotland's stirring performance in yesterday's 22-16 loss will almost certainly ensure their head coach perseveres with the tactic against Italy on Saturday. That means sticking with the precocious Jackson, who insists he is up to the challenge of marshalling his country's latest wooden spoon decider at Murrayfield.
"I definitely feel pretty comfortable in there now," he told Press Association Sport. "The other guys have got a lot of trust in me and hopefully I can keep building on that. The ethos Andy's bringing in and the way we want to play, I think it's starting to build and we're starting to get that rhythm.
"I think we played some very good stuff and caused a lot of problems for England. Maybe a couple of teams haven't done that so far in the Six Nations, so we've got to take a lot of positives from that and build on it for this week and nail it."
Jackson was under all sorts of pressure before kick-off yesterday. There had been calls for Dan Parks to be brought back into the starting XV after he came off the bench against Ireland and nearly salvaged a victory.
Jackson also had the added worry of making his Calcutta Cup debut in front of 80,000 fans at Twickenham. "It was an amazing place to play, extremely historic," said Jackson, who made way for Parks before the hour mark yesterday, as he did two weeks earlier. But the circumstances of his substitution were markedly different, with Scotland on level terms with England at that stage thanks to Jackson's monster drop goal.
And it is a tribute to the youngster that Parks was unable to match his team-mate's display when he entered the fray. Having now lost all four of their Six Nations games, Scotland must win on Saturday to avoid the wooden spoon following Italy's sensational victory over France.
"You never know, they might've taken their celebrations a bit too far and might be a wee bit tired for next week," said Jackson. "They'll be on a high, they'll be coming over to win. "There's obviously a lot of pressure on us but I'm sure we'll be all right. If we just stick to our guns, I think we'll be able to get the win."
To do that, Scotland must improve massively in the set piece against an Italy side renowned for their power up front. Chris Paterson, who knows more about wooden spoon deciders than virtually any other player, said, "It's just the next game. It's the next for us to deal with. "I'd imagine they'd have celebrated quite hard. So it's up to us to be professional. "You've got six days to go out and try to inspire the nation again."
Despite England being on the brink of a Grand Slam, this year's Six Nations has been arguably the most competitive since Italy joined the tournament in 2000. "Anyone can beat anyone," said Paterson. "It probably gives more weight to how hard it is to beat Italy. In the players' eyes, they've never been the weak link. It maybe will make people realise, who don't realise how hard it is to play against Italy, because they deserved their win."
And Scotland's most capped player also had a warning for England ahead of their next meeting in New Zealand. "There's not much between any side and the next time we play them will be under different circumstances in the World Cup."
Back-row forward Kelly Brown was said to be in good spirits after being forced off with a head knock at Twickenham, and will be assessed daily until the visit of Italy. Scotland team doctor James Robson said, "Kelly was concussed but is in good fettle today and is beginning the first stages of the return-to-play protocol."
Robson reported other routine "bumps and bruises" with 11 players on his treatment list. They are forwards Moray Low (arm), Richie Gray (neck), Alastair Kellock (foot), Nathan Hines (knee), John Barclay (hand) and Richie Vernon (calf), along with backs Max Evans (knee and ankle), Joe Ansbro (calf), Simon Danielli (neck), Dan Parks (knee) and Chris Paterson (shoulder).
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