Wednesday 18 September 2019

Lego-mad Jacob Stockdale aims to build on record-breaking year in green jersey

Ireland's Jacob Stockdale. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland's Jacob Stockdale. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

If Test rugby was a computer game, Jacob Stockdale would be close to completing it.

On Saturday, New Zealand represent the boss level and, given the way the Ulster winger has taken things in his stride since making his debut in June 2017, he'll have no fears about negotiating his way through.

No wonder then that Stockdale prefers a more analogue way of winding down during the long hours of Test week.

If Test rugby looks like child's play to the Six Nations record holder, playing what's commonly perceived as a child's game is what allows him to relax ahead of big games.

To Stockdale, however, Lego is serious work.

"It only really became a thing pretty much this time last year," he explained.

"When you're in hotels all day... I just got bored watching Netflix and sitting in bed. I was thinking, 'What can I do? What will take four or five hours that isn't physically strenuous?'

"I was in a bookshop and there was a Lego set so I said I'd give it a try and I became obsessed with it.

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"Most recently, the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. It actually took about seven hours, it was a lot more effort than I expected it to be. I just love it.

"What I usually do is buy one kit at a time, build it and then I put it up in my house. I've got a converted attic in my house and I'm turning into a nerd room, like a nerd paradise. It's coming along."

"Right now I've just got five or six big bits - the Millennium Falcon, Yoda's Starfighter, I've got the New York skyline in Lego, things like that. I'm adding bits and pieces to it but it's very early stages."

Given the high pressure environment he is asked to perform in, the 22-year-old is able to take his mind off the job before games when he is at work on his latest project.

"When you're building that the night before a game, you finish and you go, 'That's three or four hours where I literally haven't thought about the game at all'," he said.

"It helps me to switch off and then switch back on again when I finish it. It didn't occur to me at all whenever I first started it that that would be a benefit, but it is."

Certainly, Joe Schmidt won't be discouraging the youngster from his pursuit.

His record of 11 tries in 13 games for Ireland is remarkable and having played a part in building a winning-machine Stockdale doesn't want to stop regardless of the illustrious opposition on Saturday.

"They're massive at the minute," he said of belief levels in the squad.

"I think we've got to the point now where we go into games expecting to win.

"I mean, I've lost one game since I've been playing for Ireland and that was the first Test in Australia so you look at that and for me, in this team, I've never not achieved something that we've set out to do.

"Like, my first Six Nations we won a Grand Slam.

"My first summer tour, we won it, the second summer tour we won a series against Australia and it's kind of what you expect now.

"So, yeah, the confidence levels are sky high at the moment and it's really good.

"Being No 2 in the world is just a result of where we've come over the last couple of seasons although at the same time being No 2 in the world doesn't really help when you're playing the No 1 in the world.

"New Zealand are the only team where that doesn't really work!

"So even in that respect you can't really look too much into the rankings.

"I just looked at the November internationals as a bloc of games where I want to play as best I can, it doesn't matter who I play against.

"But, yeah, like you say there's something a bit different about All Black week and playing them.

"For me, it's definitely another rite of passage to push on past and hopefully perform well."

He's passed every test so far - time to take it to the next level.

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