Monday 19 February 2018

Kiss backing Stockdale to continue his rapid rise

Ulster v Dragons, Live, BBC 2, 7.35pm

Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss. Photo: Sportsfile
Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss is convinced that utility back Jacob Stockdale has the potential to maintain his upward graph this season as one of Ireland's newest international stars bids to build on his summer debut in Japan.

Ahead of this evening's Guinness PRO14 clash with Dragons, which Ulster will be expected to win at their ease, Kiss has once again opted for Stockdale on the left wing as returning All Blacks star Charles Piutau slots in at full-back.

And, after his try-scoring man of the match display in last week's thrilling Belfast success against champions Scarlets, Kiss is quietly confident that the 21-year-old Lisburn native can maintain his hot streak.

"Jacob is going well," said Kiss, after confirming the return of Iain Henderson to his squad for tonight's game.

"One of the things that was impressive is that he came in on the off-season having been on a tour with the national team, when his first Irish jersey arrived, and he was in really good nick.

"That tells me that the guy is keen to actually work hard. Last year was interesting for him, there were a few moments when he got exposed.

Over-expose "One of his opportunities came through injury and he really forced our hand. We did not want to over-expose him. He played nine or ten games and he had nine tries. We needed to blend that and manage it, because we wanted to expose him at all back three positions and 13 as well.

"At this moment we are focusing him in one of those back three areas.

"He has come a long road. I do think he has been rusty but he has had effective moments. There are a few areas he knows he has to be better at, and he is learning those things along the way.

"He does some good things that really makes an impact and that is what he is doing at the moment, but we do have a couple of things he knows he has to work on. He has to put his head down. He is a good lad."

Even minus their half-back regulars, two of seven switches including seasonal debuts for Nick Timoney and Darren Cave, Ulster should have too much for Bernard Jackman's side.

After a handsome home win against Connacht, Jackman's 13 changes are targeted at repeating the trick against Southern Kings next time.

Verdict: Ulster

Ulster - C Piutau; T Bowe, D Cave, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; P Nelson, P Marshall; K McCall, R Herring, R Ah You; R Diack, A O'Connor; C Ross, C Henry (capt), N Timoney. Reps - J Andrew, A Warwick, W Herbst, I Henderson, M Rea, D Shanahan, B Herron, R Lyttle.

Dragons - C Meyer; A Hughes, T Palamo, P Howard, G Gasson; D Jones, O Leonard; T Davies, G Ellis, L Fairbrother; M Screech, R Landman; M Williams, O Griffiths (capt), R Blake. Reps - R Buckley, P Price, B Harris, J Davies, L Greggains, D Blacker, A O'Brien, W Talbot-Davies.

Ref - D Jones (Wales)


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