Monday 22 July 2019

Jacob Stockdale represents new breed of Irish player who carries no baggage in his hurt locker

Jacob Stockdale poses for a portrait picture at Carton House after being named in the Ireland team yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Jacob Stockdale poses for a portrait picture at Carton House after being named in the Ireland team yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

All this week, defeat to Argentina at the last World Cup remains firmly lodged in the attic of Ireland's collective memory.

Victory tomorrow will not consign it to a cobwebbed corner; it may only salve some of the anguish.

There are a few men in green, however, for whom memories are not darkened by World Cup failure; instead, the new breed, spearheaded by U-20 graduates James Ryan, Jacob Stockdale and Andrew Porter, freight the lightest of baggage.

They each own a clean slate, upon which they are blissfully liberated to author their own emerging legacy of hope.

Less than a year after the Cardiff calamity, this trio formed the bedrock of an Irish team who would become the first professional male national side from this island to defeat New Zealand.

In doing so, they would reach a World Cup final, far beyond the limited, charted territory mapped by their senior counterparts in this generation and those before them. A special journey that imbues them with the fearlessness of their youth.


"To a certain extent," avers Stockdale, trusted for the second time this series to start on the wing against a southern hemisphere nation.

"James and Andrew Porter all played in that team together in a really successful year and probably off the back of that is the reason why we've done so well. It's pretty exciting for us to do it all together.

"We got to a final. I wouldn't say we nearly won it, we were beaten pretty convincingly in the end by England. But it was an incredible experience to get that far and win that many matches in a row. It was great.

"Beating New Zealand was really special for me. The year before, they'd been in our group as well and I'd lost to them so there was a bit of vengeance going out and I really wanted to beat them.

"It was pretty exciting for us. There were a lot of confident players in that group. Nigel Carolan deserves a lot of credit, he instils a lot of confidence in us. He encouraged us to play rugby."

His own experiences may differ from those of the hardened perennials but they have seeped through nonetheless.

"Yeah, it's all kind of a new experience for us. But that being said, it's hard not to feel the hurt that the guys have felt, especially after that quarter-final.

"It's great to be going in with a clean slate and just play the rugby that I want to play and we want to play. Having said that, I still think there will be an added edge."

Five years ago to this very day, Craig Gilroy announced himself during this window with a side-stepping samba bow against the same Latin opposition.

Now, he is on the outside looking in, along with fellow Ulster veterans Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe who must trot out against Treviso tonight.

This is Stockdale's time.

"It's a massive confidence-booster for me, it's quite nice to get rewarded for the hard work that I have done," he reflects.

"Andrew, Tommy and Craig are all fantastic rugby players and no doubt that when I go back to Ulster, I will still have to be fighting to get back into the side."

Like Ryan and Porter, and before that Robbie Henshaw, the U-20s are being mined carefully in a land where depth will always remain an issue; they need to be readied sooner, rather than later.

"If you look at Robbie Henshaw coming through when he was at Connacht, he played U-20s and in no time he was into the Irish senior set-up so I think he's been a guy I've always looked at for being pretty impressive and going about it the right way.

"Obviously he's gone the next step now and is a Lion. Robbie is a pretty good player to try and chase."

Stockdale has streaked ahead of them; for now. He was reserved against South Africa until bursting into life late on, as Joe Schmidt conceded.

"He was a bit tentative in the opening quarter but the more the game went in, he grew into it. What we would like for him is a really good start. It will be a challenge for him and to own the role he has to deliver."

Without having heard his coach's comments, Stockdale mirrors the analysis.

"It was the first time I've played at the Aviva, 30,000 more people than I've ever played in front of before. So it was a bit of a change up."

Tomorrow against Argentina, he is more than prepared to seize the moment.

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