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'The advantage of having an All Black beside you': Stockdale reveling in tandem with Piutau

The young Ulster star has scored on all four of his appearances this campaign, but he’s eager to deflect the credit.
Oct 9th 2017, 12:01 AM 5,075 13

Sean Farrell reports from Kingspan Stadium

A THIRTEENTH ULSTER try for Jacob Stockdale and, by his reckoning, the Friday night score against Connacht was a lucky one.

Forget the fact that the 21-year-old played an enormous part in creating his own try by cutting into a fractured midfield at a brilliant angle before timing his toss to Charles Piutau to strand John Muldoon. He just can’t help himself.

“I’m trying not to (score), but the ball keeps coming my way,” Stockdale jokes before heading off any plaudits for the glorious match-winning try by laying the praise at the feet of Piutau.

And rightly so, seeing as the Aucklander extinguished a dangerous Matt Healy chip-and-chase before spinning the pill wide to Stockdale, re-taking possession to provide the killer pass nine exhilarating seconds later.

“The advantage of having an All Black beside you is that he’s always going to be in support when you try to make the break. I saw the hole and went for it and Charles was there to give me a hand and put me in.”

Ulster’s back-line will be a slightly duller place next year when Piutau packs his bags to join Pat Lam’s Bristol. But to have a player of his considerable pedigree working day in and day out at such a formative point in Stockdale’s career just might prove to be serious value for money.

“It’s a massive influence,” the young Ireland international says of Piutau and Australian out-half Christian Lealiifano.

They’ve both come from Super Rugby where it’s all fast flowing and if you see an opportunity you take it. I think that’s really starting to rub off on me and the other players. They’re really enthusiastic about attacking from anywhere and it’s pretty exciting.”

“There are times where you need to be smart or safe with the ball, and (the coaches) will  tell you that, but if you feel you have an opportunity… that’s why we’re able to attack from deep and have a crack because the coaches have a ‘let’s have a go and see what happens’ mentality, and that’s really exciting, especially as a back three player.”

Source: PRO14 Rugby/YouTube

A willingness to have a cut, of course, isn’t enough to catch the eye or gain the trust of Joe Schmidt. The Ireland head coach has asked Stockdale to be more vocal and assertive in his defensive duties, but after scoring on his Test debut in New Jersey in June and beginning this season with a try on each of his four appearances, surely at least one more cap will be forthcoming against either South Africa, Fiji or Argentina next month?

“I don’t know about inevitable,” he says with a laugh, “but I try my best to play the best I can every week and if that comes on the end of it then brilliant, but if not then I’ve got stuff to work on and I’ve just got to play the best I can.

“There’s still an awful lot of rugby to be played. We’ve got the two massive European games up next and then Leinster after that so my focus is very firmly on Ulster right now and trying to play as best as I can for them.”

He’s certainly doing that.

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Sean Farrell


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