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Jacob Stockdale determined not to be defined by a poor World Cup

The 23-year-old is excited to link with Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway in Ireland’s back three.

‘IT’S NOT WHETHER you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up,’ goes the saying attributed to the famous American football coach, Vince Lombardi.

It’s a sentiment that Jacob Stockdale has been living by since Ireland’s poor 2019 ended with a heavy World Cup quarter-final defeat to New Zealand.

In a sensational 2018 that saw Ireland win a Grand Slam and beat the All Blacks, Stockdale had been sublime, scoring eight tries in his 10 Tests. 

jacob-stockdale Stockdale at Ireland's training base in Portugal yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Last year was far more difficult, with Stockdale’s try-scoring chances drying up and his form dipping. Four tries in 11 games is hardly the worst record but the Ulster man’s performances at the World Cup were far from what he is capable of, particularly in the quarter-final against the All Blacks.

The 23-year-old has, however, returned to form with Ulster in recent months, ending a longstanding try-scoring drought for his province and showing dynamism and defensive aggression while playing with a smile on his face.

Having retained his place in Ireland’s starting team to face Scotland in Saturday’s Six Nations opener, 25-times capped Stockdale is determined to underline that the World Cup won’t define him.

“I accept I didn’t have a [good] World Cup,” said Stockdale yesterday. “I didn’t really enjoy the World Cup in a rugby sense, it was pretty disappointing from that point of view.

“But you just have to park that and say, ‘That’s not me, I’m not defined by that. I’m defined by how I move forward.’

“Obviously coming into the camp, it’s very different now. With new management, new styles, they’ve really tried to shake everything up and it feels completely different. And to be honest, it’s been really enjoyable coming back in and seeing the guys who you hung out with for so long in Japan.”

The competition for places in Ireland’s back three has ensured that Stockdale is feeling “grateful” to be given the chance to pull on the green jersey against this weekend in Dublin.

Dave Kearney, Will Addison, and Keith Earls miss out on the matchday 23 altogether, though head coach Andy Farrell said yesterday that Earls and Addison have had injuries that limited their training involvement.

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jacob-stockdale Stockdale warming up with an AFL ball. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Stockdale links up with fullback Jordan Larmour and right wing Andrew Conway in Ireland’s back three to face the Scots, eager to make an impact and perhaps even add to his 16 Test tries.

“You look at the way Jordo’s playing in Europe for Leinster, he’s looking seriously sharp, and likewise with Bomber [Conway] on the other wing. They are two guys that are really dangerous players and guys that I get on with really well. 

“I feel like we link up really well, so it’s an exciting back three.

“To be honest, with this opener, we need to focus on doing the basics well and then Jordan stepping nine lads in a row will come off the back of that hopefully. 

“That’s something they both do really well, they’re both really exciting players and they’ve got that X-factor but at the same time they have that ability to have a really solid game, which is exactly what you need at international level.”

A strong showing from the back three would certainly go some way towards Ireland getting the Farrell era off to a winning start on Saturday as they look to build some of that vital early Six Nations momentum.

“You can’t win a Grand Slam on the first weekend but you can lose it, so for us, as a player, you don’t really think about those worst-case scenarios,” said Stockdale.

“You go in with the confidence that we’re at home, we’re a good team and we’re training really well.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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