Luke Fitzgerald believes Jacob Stockdale is 'struggling defensively' and has some advice for the youngster
With eight tries in seven appearances, Jacob Stockdale has taken international rugby by storm but doubts over his defensive capabilities remain.
The Ulster winger has been culpable at times in the victories over France, Italy and Wales, most notably for Teddy Thomas' try in Paris and Gareth Davies five-pointer last weekend.
Despite Ireland only missing 12 tackles in the 37-27 win over the Welsh, they were exposed out wide on a number of occasions.
With Scotland and England standing between Joe Schmidt's team and a Grand Slam, defensive coach Andy Farrell will be hoping to iron out the issues Ireland have had out of possession.
Speaking on The Left Wing Live in association with Aer Lingus, Luke Fitzgerald feels Stockdale has had issues in defence.
"They can be caught out wide at times., The mentality is to go very hard off the line and that's a good thing but there are times when you are going to have to manage a team when you're unprepared and they are set well," he said
"Stockdale, while he was incredible going forward and he's got an incredible try record, is struggling defensively.
"The intercept was great to get but when you're in that position I think, 'You're not making a guy', and that's a risk to take.
"There were a lot of times in the game where I saw him back-pedalling and if you're back-pedalling in that situation it means you have got your footwork wrong, you've got your positioning wrong and I thought for the first try as well, Davies has to be made to pass that ball he can't just walk that try in, even though Ireland defended it poorly on the inside."
Fitzgerald has some advice for the imposing youngster.
"He's a big guy and he needs to get himself in good positions earlier. I think he's not connecting early enough with the guys inside him which is key in that position. That influences your decision-making an awful lot of the time," he added.
"Your winger is so important because he's the connection with the back-field as well.
"He's telling the 13 he's there because if he's not there it changes the picture completely. If he is defending a kick because the full-back isn't there or the scrum-half is not covering in behind. There is loads of things that the winger has to be doing.
"He has to be able to assess those things and give good information into the 13, into the 12, into the 10 to get the information to the forwards.
"I think they might be struggling there in my mind and maybe the defensive system is trying to get off the line and are getting a bit to caught up in that system. Sometimes you have to concede ground and then compete at the breakdown and slow it up.
"Stockdale is a young guy and he's still learning the trade. He's going to be a brilliant players and he's going to be a great defender
"He's still raw enough for me in that aspect."