Bann girl Jemma gets Ireland’s call

Ulster Womens' out half Jemma Jackson. Photo by John Dickson | www.dicksondigital.com
Ulster Womens' out half Jemma Jackson. Photo by John Dickson | www.dicksondigital.com

Banbridge girl Jemma Jackson can’t wait to get going as the Six Nations begins this weekend.

The 22 year-old has been named in Ireland’s panel for the tournament, having impressed in an appearance off the bench against Wales in last week’s warm-up match.

“I’m really pleased with my inclusion in this year’s squad,” she told The Front Row Union website. “I’m really looking forward to the next couple of months but I’ll definitely be taking each weekend as it comes.”

Jemma is one of three Ulster based players in the squad as he Cooke team-mates Claire McLaughlin and Ilse van Staden also made the cut.

The campaign begins away to Scotland at Glasgow’s Broadwood Stadium on Friday (kick-off 6.35pm).

A trip to Italy follows on Sunday February 12 before Ireland host France at Dublin’s Donnybrook Stadium on Sunday February 26.

Ireland travel to Wales on Saturday March 11 and conclude the campaign against England at Donnybrook on Friday March 17. All of the games are live on RTE.

Jemma first took up the game as an eight year-old, playing in Banbridge RFC’s U9 squad under coach Alan Dunwoody. She moved on up through the grades, finishing on the Maxis (U-12s) where, under the tutelage of George MacCormac and Carolyn Dean, she gave clear evidence of her potential as an outstanding out-half.

With no outlet for her rugby in her early teens Jemma concentrated on badminton, at which she represented Ulster at U-15 and U-17 level.

She took up rugby again at the age of 17, playing for the Malone Development side. But her abilities had been spotted by the senior Ulster selectors and she made her first appearance for her province just after her 18th birthday. When she started her studies at Queen’s she played for the student side in the All-Ireland League before moving this season to Belfast club Cooke.

Jenna has also developed her rugby coaching skills and this season she coached the Ulster U18 Women’s side to the inter-provincial title.

A first start for her country would represent another massive stride forward.