Wednesday 12 December 2018

Stockdale keen not to let first Test setback ruin dream season

Jacob Stockdale. Photo: Sportsfile
Jacob Stockdale. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor in Melbourne

It is the curse of the professional sportsman, an insatiable desire for more, more, more.

Despite what he thinks right now as he gets to grips with his first international defeat in his 10th start, Jacob Stockdale will always cherish this record-breaking Grand Slam season.

Presently, however, he is of the opinion that a series defeat to Australia would spoil the success and that is fuelling his determination to help level the series in Melbourne on Saturday.

"How I look back on it will largely depend on how this tour goes, you know?" he said. "If we come away with a tour win it's another massive thing that I'm able to add on to this season.

"If not, I'd probably come away pretty disappointed. All in all, looking back, this season has gone in a way that I could never have imagined it to at the start. I'm pretty grateful for that, I just want to kick on and do the same next season.

"It's an incredibly competitive team, to stay competing and doing well at the top level of rugby you have to stay competitive. In a certain sense, nothing is ever good enough because when you achieve one goal you then want to achieve the next one.

"That's exactly how it is, if you don't do that you get complacent and then you stopped playing well."

Like James Ryan, Bundee Aki, Joey Carbery and Jordan Larmour, this is the first time that Stockdale has been part of a losing Irish side and the winger admits that the experience is quite different to what he's been accustomed to.

"It's fairly strange in terms of, for me, Andrew Porter, James Ryan and guys like that hadn't experienced it yet, we hadn't experienced coming in the next morning after a loss and having to work from there," he said.

"Of course it is different, you look at everything a little bit more critically whenever you lose than when you win. It's probably a feeling of frustration that we didn't put in the performance that we knew we were capable of. That's the biggest thing."

In the team meetings there has been a blend of harsh words, rallying cries and the nitty gritty detail that is needed to get back to winning ways.

"It's a mixture, you've sometimes got guys saying, 'This wasn't good enough', there's a bit of emotion in that because every time you put on the jersey there's pride involved in it as well," Stockdale explained.

"Then on the other hand there are technical points in terms of positioning, timing, things like that. That makes a difference in the game. For different things you look at it different ways, I suppose."

The highlight of Stockdale's night came when he brilliantly got back to force Marika Koroibete into touch, saving Robbie Henshaw's blushes and his team from conceding a try.

There was, he says, little thought behind the tackle.

"It's just something you have to do, you know? That's the reason you cover across as a winger to pick up any chip lines or if there's a line-break to try and snuff it out," he said.

"I was pretty pleased that I managed to get him into touch, because he's a pretty strong guy.

"As soon as I saw that (Kurtley) Beale had slipped Robbie and there was a line-break on, you just have to do as best as you can in that scenario.

"Luckily, he just decided to bomb it for the corner and that made it a bit easier in the sense that I knew he wouldn't be able to step back on to his inside because he was going so hard.

"It was just a read on your feet. It was just a case that I need to stop the player from scoring, get him into touch. So, it's the body in the line kind of thing rather than technique."

Ireland are in something of a hole this week as they look to bounce back and level the series but Stockdale is upbeat about their capacity to turn things around.

"It's a massive opportunity now, that's what we have to view it as," he said. "It's an opportunity for us to really roll our sleeves up and get stuck into this tour. If we get a win at the weekend, you're coming into a decider in the last game and it becomes an awful lot more achievable."

The focus now is finishing a dream season on a high and making sure that when they stretch out by the beach in the weeks to come they don't have any regrets over the way it ended.

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