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Getting the ball into Stockdale's hands would be a good start for Ireland's attack

The 23-year-old hasn’t been able to register his first World Cup try yet.

SO FAR IN this World Cup, Jacob Stockdale has had only 11 touches of the ball in what we could call attacking situations.

Three of those 11 have been when Stockdale has received opposition kicks, meaning that Ireland have delivered the ball into his hands only eight times in the two games he has played.

To his credit, Stockdale has made the best of the limited involvements – beating two defenders, offloading successfully twice, and making a searing linebreak with his chip-and-chase on a scrum attack against Scotland.

jacob-stockdale Stockdale in Fukuoka yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 23-year-old is a man who makes things happen in attack and we can be sure that Joe Schmidt is keen to get him more involved if, as expected, Stockdale returns to Ireland’s starting team against Samoa this weekend.

To be fair, sometimes the flow of a game just doesn’t go in a certain direction and wings are used to have fleeting involvement.

A move into fullback in a reshuffled backline in the closing stages of Ireland’s defeat to Japan did at least give Stockdale the chance to register a few carries but this World Cup has not quite fallen his way just yet.

The ball tends to eventually find its way into Stockdale’s hands, so he will be hopeful of a few sniffs of the tryline this weekend in Fukuoka.

So far in Japan, the Ulster flyer has been unable to add to his haul of 16 Test tries in just 23 Tests, but he’s not getting worked up about it.

Fellow wing Keith Earls hasn’t added to his Irish record of eight World Cup tries yet, although fullback Rob Kearney has broken his drought and now has three tries in his last three games.

“I don’t really think about it,” says Stockdale. “Me and Earlsy have had a bit of a joke that neither of us has scored a try yet but to be honest, as long as we’re winning and we’re doing well, I’m happy not to be scoring tries. It’s not something that bothers me.”

Having sat out last week’s clash with Russia, Stockdale is just eager to get back into action with Ireland, particularly with back-three competition like Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour in good form at this World Cup.

“I think that’s the great thing about this team, there’s serious depth there within the squad,” said Stockdale.

jacob-stockdale-with-ryohei-yamanaka Stockdale has shown glimpses of his quality in limited attacking involvements. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Earlsy, Andrew Conway, Jordan Larmour, Kearns, they’re all really good players and I think everybody’s kind of gone really well throughout the tournament.

“So, you’re always worried that your place is going to be taken but you just can’t worry about that. You just have to train as best you can and play as best you can and hopefully you keep your spot.”

Having not played against the Russians, Stockdale had the chance for a strength and conditioning top-up in the latter part of last week, leaving him feeling refreshed and renewed for the final Pool A game.

He is loving his World Cup experience, although he says the biggest surprise is how little Ireland are seeing of the other teams.

“The one thing I have been pretty surprised at is that we haven’t bumped into another teams out and about,” said Stockdale.

“I just expected rugby players to be everywhere and bumping into them left, right and centre. I suppose that is the thing that has quite surprised me – how spread all the teams are, which is obviously great that everyone in different areas of Japan are getting to see games.”

jacob-stockdale Stockdale in the gym with Ireland yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Perhaps Stockdale will happen upon more players of other nationalities in Tokyo and Yokohama if Ireland can secure their quarter-final place with a strong showing and a win against the Samoans on Saturday.

Stockdale is hungry to play his part in Ireland’s best performance yet and hopes to see their attack flourish as Schmidt’s men chase a bonus-point victory.

“I think there’s just a few things we need to sharpen up on. I don’t think we’re at panic stations or anything like that.

“You can see we’re getting into our shape really nicely, there’s just the odd pass not going to hand or maybe we’re not making the right decisions, so those kinds of wee one-to-two per cent things are making all the difference and they’re really easy to fix.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Fukuoka

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