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Stockdale Still Learning As He Continues Stellar Scoring Form

Stockdale Still Learning As He Continues Stellar Scoring Form

With six tries from six Test appearances so far, Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale has enjoyed an explosive introduction to life as an Ireland international player.

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In addition to scoring tries in the 59th and 69th minutes of Saturday’s 56-19 bonus point win over Italy at the Aviva Stadium, Jacob Stockdale also made 125 metres from 15 carries – more than any Ireland player on the day.

He has certainly brought his excellent provincial form to bear with Ireland, who are yet to taste defeat with the Lisburn-born winger in their side. However, now that he has started in consecutive Six Nations matches for the first time, Stockdale has learnt how gruelling life at this level can be.

“I’d say the biggest learning is how tough it is. The last 10 minutes my lungs were really starting to go. You don’t understand how difficult it is until you’ve played in it,” explained the 21-year-old as he reflected on the round 2 fixture.

“That’s something I’ve learnt. You learn things through every game you play, and there’ll be things after today’s match that I’ll need to work on. We put a big focus on our defence as a team and Andy Farrell puts a real big onus on us as wingers to kind of lead our defensive line.

“It’s something that is a real big part of Joe’s game, and something that I’m trying to make a big part of mine. So there will be a lot of work-ons.”

With Ireland ruthlessly exploiting the Italian defence in the wide channels, it was a day that was tailor-made for clinical finishers like Stockdale and Keith Earls. The Ulster youngster had a number of opportunities in a dominant first half performance from the hosts, before he added his name to the scoresheet at the tail-end of the third quarter.

Stockdale was admittedly ‘a bit frustrated’ that it took him so long to get on the board, but was still happy with large parts of his performance in the first half. “Although I didn’t get to score earlier on, there was a lot of things that went right for me and I felt I was having a good game.

“I was having a lot of involvement, so I was happy with that. I suppose you’ve just got to take your opportunities when they come to you and I did that a lot better in the second half.”

It was a much-improved showing by Italy after the break, which offered their head coach Conor O’Shea some crumbs of comfort ahead of the Championship’s remaining rounds. While their ninth victory on the spin was never in doubt, Stockdale’s brace ensured that Ireland finished the weekend at the top of the Six Nations table on scoring difference.

Robbie Henshaw’s withdrawal with a suspected dislocated shoulder coincided with Italy finally making the breakthrough in attack, but Stockdale believes this was due to a drop in concentration, admitting: “I don’t think it was down to injuries to be honest. We pride ourselves on having really good depth within our squad, and the guys that come on do a good job.

“I think it was just maybe a lapse in concentration in the fact that we were 40 points ahead at one point. We just dropped our foot off the pedal a wee bit, in terms of, particularly, our defence.”

Indeed, if Ireland are to carry their Grand Slam hopes into the final round, Stockdale knows they will need to produce 80-minute performances and get the best out of their defence and attack – starting with the visit of Wales to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday week.

“Wales put in a really good performance against Scotland (in the opening round). They’re going to be a very, very real challenge, but we have about two weeks to prepare. We’ll be well prepared for it.

“I think it’s just getting that 80-minute performance together, and making sure that we concentrate and don’t mentally tap out for a single phase of that game. Because Italy punished us when we did, and Wales will punish us even better than that.”

The former Wallace High School pupil made his home debut in the Six Nations this weekend, having already registered tries in previous outings at the home of Irish Rugby against South Africa and Argentina. He is used to playing in front of a passionate home crowd at Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium, but admits that there is something unique about the wide surrounds of Lansdowne Road.

“Playing in Dublin is incredible, it’s the third time I’ve done it. The atmosphere here is phenomenal, especially for a young guy like myself. I haven’t really experienced anything like that before. I really, really enjoyed it,” he added.