ULSTER DEFENCE COACH Jonny Bell insists that the competition to start at number 10 in the Heineken Cup final is still well in the balance.
Ian Humphreys, 30, has played the role all season and steered the northern province past the quarter-finals for the first time since 1999.
However, days before it was announced he would leave for London Irish this summer, Humphreys was dropped for the semi-final at the Aviva stadium.
Since then, 20-year-old Paddy Jackson has been the man entrusted with the pivot duties.
Bell says the decision, which will be revealed when Ulster name their starting line-up tomorrow, will depend on a delicate balance of experience versus Jackson’s extra defensive strength.
“Paddy is a little bit more stocky and a little bit more physical in the tackle situation. Whereas Humph gives you that controlling influence and the communication skills he has are second to none.
“So it’s going to be a key decision that we have to make, it’s an integral position so we’re blessed to have two players in that position who can fit in.”
Ordinarily, the number 10 is the position to orchestrate matters and attempt to control the flow of a game. However, with Ulster having Ran Pienaar and Paddy Wallace behind the scrum, they tend to put much less creative onus on the out-half. Bell hinted hinted that Jackson would be given the nod once again.
“You need players around you who are experienced there’s no doubt about it.” says Bell, “Paddy (Wallace) has a huge wealth of experience and Ruan – relatively, he’s not a veteran, he’s a young guy – but he has that international experience to call on and he’s just a settling influence.
“It’s great for somebody like Paddy (Jackson) who was starting in the semi-final, who has players either side of him who can just take the pressure off him a little bit and ease him through certain situations.
“It’s an old cliche, but you can’t beat experience in some situations.”