Stockdale: I don't want to be 24 or 25 and not starting for my club
Published 03/06/2016 | 02:30
It has already been a major breakthrough season for Jacob Stockdale but he has his sights firmly set on building on that with Ireland at this month's World Rugby U-20 Championship.
Stockdale missed Ireland's first three Six Nations games as he was a regular fixture in Ulster's Pro12 squad - his U-20 debut arrived in late January when he came off the bench in the win over Treviso.
The 20-year's reputation has been rapidly growing up north over the last couple of seasons.
His long-term goal is to end up as an outside-centre, but the traffic in front of him at Ulster would suggest that he may be waiting a while yet to make the No 13 jersey his own.
The fact that his close friend Sam Arnold is Munster-bound after deciding to seek first-team rugby elsewhere is a timely reminder for Stockdale that starting berths are hard to come by in Ulster these days and although, for now, he is happy to continue for forge his path on the wing, he is fully aware of the tough task that he has on his hands.
Stockdale played in last year's Junior World Cup and could find himself at full-back in this year's tournament.
Playing on the world stage gives the ambitious Stockdale a chance to impress potential suitors and that will be in the back of his mind.
"There's a number of players that get picked up by a whole range of clubs after the U-20s," he said.
"The likes of an Ulster lad, Chris Farrell, a couple of years ago. He got picked up by Grenoble after the U-20s. Not that I'm looking to move clubs or anything, but it does showcase talents, and it shows coaches what you can do.
"I have a lot of aspirations for my career, and I don't want to be 24 or 25 and not starting for my club.
"Obviously, I'm going to try and do my best to push through at Ulster, because that's where I grew up. That's the team I want to play for the most, but at the same time, yeah, I do need to keep my options open and see what happens really."
As well as Arnold, another young Irish player, Cian Kelleher, is seeking pastures new at Connacht in a bid to get more game-time.
IRFU performance director David Nucifora's remit of spreading the talent pool across all four provinces will continue but Stockdale believes that more young Irish players will be open to moving abroad if they see no other choice.
"You're starting to see lads who are getting paid £500,000, or £750,000 a year, and you're just seeing players move clubs," he said.
"Irish players going out to France, and English players coming here. . . I think it's good for the game.
"It gives players an opportunity to play in different parts of the world, and start with club teams. Just with how professional rugby has gotten, that's why more players are deciding there's more rugby to be played than just my home club."
Meanwhile, back-rower Conall Boomer has replaced Will Connors (ankle) in the Irish squad.