Saturday 21 April 2018

Stockdale aims to carry Ulster form into November internationals

Rising star Jacob Stockdale crosses the line for Ulster. Photo: John Dickson/Sportsfile
Rising star Jacob Stockdale crosses the line for Ulster. Photo: John Dickson/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The excitement surrounding Jacob Stockdale is gathering momentum at a considerable pace and while the 21-year old is keeping his feet firmly on the ground, it's difficult not to be extremely impressed by his scintillating form.

In Ulster's gritty win over Wasps on Friday night, Stockdale combined brilliantly with Charles Piutau to light up what had been an absolute slugfest.

Five tries in five games this season is the kind of strike rate that will catch Joe Schmidt's eye ahead of next month's three internationals. Stockdale is not yet the finished product but the more time he spends with Schmidt, he will unquestionably improve at an even quicker rate than he already is at Ulster.

Having made his try-scoring Ireland debut on the summer tour, the winger has hit the ground running this season and is benefiting hugely from playing alongside Piutau.

Break

"To be honest, most of the time I just run off him and expect him to make a break," Stockdale said of his understanding with the former All Black.

"I think Charles is a pretty intuitive player. He can create something out of nothing, so it's always just a matter of being on his shoulder and seeing what happens."

Stockdale's pace and power is causing defences all sorts of problems and up against the pacey Christian Wade on Friday, he not only nullified the Wasps speedster but also tied him up in knots on several occasions.

"I was quite happy because he is a pretty electric player," he enthused. "There was one at the end where he got on my outside and roasted me a wee bit, but I got back to cover him so I was happy in that respect."

It's a measure of Stockdale's grounded approach that he is fully aware that aspects of his game need to improve, especially if he is to force his way into Schmidt's plans.

A superb try and a quite brilliant offload to put Stuart McCloskey over for the crucial second try ensured Ulster got their Champions Cup campaign off to the ideal start. Now it's all about maintaining that kind of form and adding to his two international caps.

"It was massive," Stockdale reflected on the summer tour.

"Just to be in that kind of atmosphere that's a level above Ulster. To be able to learn from fantastic players is really exciting. To play an international is a dream come true.

"We'll see how the next couple of weeks go but, yeah, I'm hopeful. I've just got to keep performing and working hard for Ulster."

Irish Independent

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