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Could Stockdale offer something different as Ireland's next fullback?

Murray Kinsella and Andy Dunne discussed the merits of having an attacking fullback after Stockdale’s appearance at 15 last weekend.

Stockdale started at 15 for Ulster last weekend.
Stockdale started at 15 for Ulster last weekend.
Image: Craig Watson/INPHO

JACOB STOCKDALE’S CAMEO at fullback during Ulster’s impressive Guinness Pro14 victory at Edinburgh last weekend provided a snapshot of what the 23-year-old could offer in the backfield going forward.

Stockdale has made his meteoric rise in club and international rugby on the wing, but his performance with the number 15 jersey on his back at Murrayfield not only showed his versatility, but the potential for him to occupy the position in the future.

With Rob Kearney, now 33, yet to decide on what his next step will be after this year’s World Cup, Joe Schmidt has exposed Jordan Larmour to Test rugby in the backfield, and Andy Dunne believes Stockdale can be another exciting option at fullback.

Speaking on this week’s The42 Rugby Weekly, Dunne and Murray Kinsella discussed the merits of having an attacking fullback in your team, while also touching on Irish rugby’s mindset when it comes to who wears the 15 jersey. 

“Stockdale breaks the current Irish mentality in terms of the mould your fullback,” Dunne said.

“We’re all a bit fearful of Larmour and we’re all a bit fearful of Stockdale because they’re really good attacking threats, which says a lot about how we think. It’s great to see Kearney because he’s commanding in defence, his positional awareness, what he brings to the overall group and it’s all a very steady eddy kind of mentality.

“There’s equal value in having a brilliant attacking fullback as there is having a brilliant defensive fullback and ideally we’ll have someone who has both somewhere on the spectrum. Kearney’s attacking threat is certainly not what it was but he is peerless in terms of his command of the backfield.

“But there is such a thing as fullbacks who don’t have that, who can create two tries a match and that’s 14 points. So there’s a lot of value in that too. It’s about the mindset we have.

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

“I think Stockdale could be a brilliantly exciting addition to Irish fullback play in a couple of years. I don’t see it happening come October/November but you got a little inkling there last week of what he’s capable of there.

“The likes of Larmour and potentially even Henshaw in times to come, there are options there when Rob retires and they probably are more attack-minded than defensive.”

On the emergence of ‘templates’ in Irish rugby, former Connacht out-half Dunne said: “It’s the same for 10, because not everyone is ROG and not everyone is Johnny Sexton and if that’s our template for 10s going forward, then where is the place for Joey Carbery in two years to be the starting 10?

“Or where is the place for Jack Carty who is a brilliant creative attacking force. We have to be careful about how we categorise our requirements. Not everyone needs to be a brilliant, tactical genius, maybe someone needs to be a brilliant attacking force in key positions.”

Murray Kinsella agreed.

“Even that a template is a thing in Irish rugby is not a good thing,” he added.

“We tend to now have ‘this is what we want, let’s see who fits it into that’ whereas rugby is about the 15 players on the pitch, it should be about adapting around that and I guess at the lower levels of the game, that’s the joy of it. You adapt to whatever you have.”

You can listen to the full episode below:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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