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Dublin: 17 °C Thursday 9 July, 2020

'It was like the House of Commons': Ulster dressing room ensured Stockdale moved beyond blip

One corner of the Aviva Stadium witnessed the peak and trough of Jacob Stockdale’s career.

IF EVER WE needed further proof of how fickle the rugby fates can be, Jacob Stockdale’s season is an instructive place to start.

On the international front, Ireland’s 2018/19 campaign ended in a Cardiff wash-out, a doldrum that felt all the deeper because of the dizzying heights that came earlier.

Source: F Kelly/YouTube

Stockdale delivered a moment that will live long in the memories of Irish rugby, a brilliantly taken try that delivered a famous November Test win over New Zealand. And yet, down in that same corner come March, the prolific Ulster wing hit a rare speedbump on his path to the top of the game.

With the northern province leading an intense Champions Cup quarter-final battle with Leinster 11 -13, Stockdale broke out his array of physical strengths to jink and fend his way to the try-line.

Unfortunately, as he reached down to ground the ball with his left hand, it slipped from his grasp and the TMO ensured he would not escape the glaring knock on.

Source: Extreme Rugby Highlights/YouTube

In the press conference post-match head coach Dan McFarland was ready and willing to defend his player, pointing out the unique quality required to create the opening.

Meanwhile, in the Aviva Stadium’s away dressing room, Stockdale was addressing the floor.

“Straight after the game Rory game me one of those classic Rory Best looks,” Stockdale said as Maxol unveiled him as their brand ambassador today.

Jacob Stockdale dejected after the game Stockdale leaves the field at the Aviva in March. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I asked Rory if I could talk to the lads after the game, because I felt I had let them down and I wanted to apologise. So I did, started speaking and – Rory put it best – ‘it was like the House of Commons,’” the wing recounts while bellowing out an impression of the throaty rabble that graces Westminster on a daily basis.

Order, order! Because it is madness for sportspeople to feel the need to formally apologise for sporting errors.

“They drowned me out.

“That was a big thing for me, because it made me realise how tight-knit a group we were. In other teams, boys could have blamed you, but the Ulster guys were great and rallied round me.”

That sense of acceptance from his team was certainly easier to take and work forward from than the outsiders’ view. 

“People were saying: nobody expected you to be there, nobody expected you to push Leinster as hard. And, to be honest, that makes you a bit more frustrated. Because nobody expected us to beat them and go to the semi-finals. In that sense it was a real disappointment.

Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale chased by Leinster's Sean Cronin and Adam Byrne Stockdale breaks for the line against Leinster. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“For me, on a personal level, I’ve been fortunate to score tries that have helped us win games. (This time) I was unfortunate to miss out on a try that potentially caused us to lose the game.

“I felt sorry for myself for a day. I’m the type of person… I can’t sit and mope around, I get bored with my own company. So come Monday morning, I got to the gym nice and early, did a bit of kicking to freshen up the legs and come Tuesday I had forgotten about it.”

It is behind Stockdale in the sense that he won’t let the sole blip in his career leave a lasting dent in his confidence, but the 23-year-old is intent on learning from every occasion he takes the field. 

One element of his remarkable try against New Zealand was that he had tried and failed a chip and chase minutes before his devastating finish. Under McFarland’s watch, Stockdale is striving to balance the risk-reward of attacking situations.

Maxol Jacob Stockdale 20 Jacob Stockdale was revealed as Maxol's first-ever brand ambassador today at an event in Dublin. As a fourth-generation family business, Maxol is committed to supporting the next generation, and that includes rugby greats such as Stockdale. Source: Brian McEvoy.

“I’m always going to be the kind of player who wants to take risks and go for things – I’m probably a coach-killer in that sense,” he jokes.

“There have been times it hasn’t worked out for me, like the Kieran Read incident… me chipping over Kieran Read’s head on my own 10-metre line, with 45 metres to get to the try-line, is high-risk and there’s probably not a lot of reward for that.

“Whereas chipping into space in the 22 for the ball to bounce five metres from their line with me galloping on, there’s a lot less risk and a lot more reward.”

Throughout Stockdale’s game, the brilliance heavily outweighs the odd flaw.

Gavan Casey is joined by Murray Kinsella and Sean Farrell for a review of the 2018/19 season, and cast an eye forward to next year and the Rugby World Cup in Japan.:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Sean Farrell

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