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'Pretty much the entire family, the dog and the cat, are heading down. It'll be something special'

Jacob Stockdale is relishing the prospect of playing in front of the Aviva Stadium crowd for the first time.
Nov 9th 2017, 6:49 PM 13,932 7

THOSE WHO HAVE followed the development of Jacob Stockdale will not be surprised by his rapid rise in the short time since he burst onto the scene as a prodigiously talented young winger at U20 level.

Jacob Stockdale Stockdale has done enough to earn a spot in Schmidt's starting XV. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Fifteen months ago, the Lisburn native was the star of Ireland’s celebrated Junior World Championship campaign as he played an integral role in the team’s journey to a first-ever final.

Big things have always been expected of him.

A try-scoring international debut against USA in June brought his talents to a wider audience and he has followed that up with a scintillating run of form in the early stages of the season with Ulster which has seen him score five tries in seven appearances.

Stockdale is absolutely flying, and on Saturday will make his home debut against South Africa at the Aviva Stadium.

A rollercoaster ride, a whirlwind 12 months and a pinch me moment to cap it off.

“It’s very exciting, playing my first home game in front of the Aviva Stadium crowd is going to be something special,” he says, after today’s team announcement.

“I’m excited to see what I can do in the next couple of weeks. It’s a new team, it’s exciting. It’s something that every young Irish boy dreams of. For it to be coming true now is very, very exciting.”

Stockdale added that seeing his name on the team-sheet for the weekend’s Guinness series opener was something of a weight off his shoulders, almost verification that he belongs at this level having retained his place on the left wing even when Ireland are at full strength.

“It was incredible, a bit of a weight off my shoulders as I’ve worked really hard over the last couple of months to get a spot on this team and for Joe to pay me back on that has really been great.

“On the summer tour I had the opportunity to learn off other players like Keith Earls, he was phenomenal.

Jacob Stockdale The Ulster winger at Carton House earlier. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“And now Rob [Kearney] and Johnny [Sexton] and Conor Murray have been really instrumental in helping me learn my plays and learning my defensive position even better when I’m in camp and to be able to learn off those guys is really exciting.”

What strikes you first about Stockdale is not his down-to-earth and laid-back disposition, but his imposing physical stature.

Standing at six-foot five inches and 102kg, the Ulster man is a huge physical presence and certainly there is no sterner test than to come up against a Springbok side loaded with big ball-carrying units.

While he has been working hard on his defensive duties for Saturday, Stockdale hopes he gets the chance with ball in hand to make it a night to remember.

“I’m really looking forward to running out at the Aviva,” he adds. “Pretty much the entire family, the dog and the cat, pretty much everybody is heading down so hopefully it will be a night to remember.”

Now to let it all sink in over the next 48 hours.

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Ryan Bailey

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