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'We think Jacob has all the attributes to push forward at fullback' - Farrell

The 24-year-old Ulsterman has been picked in Ireland’s number 15 shirt against Italy.

IRELAND BOSS ANDY Farrell has backed Jacob Stockdale to make a big impact from fullback after naming the Ulster man in the number 15 shirt for Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Italy.

It will be 28-times capped Stockdale’s first start at fullback for Ireland at senior level, having been a mainstay on the left wing in recent seasons.

Injuries to previous fullback incumbent Jordan Larmour and the unlucky Will Addison have opened the door for Stockdale to return to the position in which he excelled for the Ireland U20s as they reached the World Championship final in 2016.

jacob-stockdale Stockdale will wear the number 15 shirt for Ireland this weekend. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

With Addison sidelined, Stockdale has been playing regularly at fullback for Ulster in recent months and he will now make the move at Test level too.

Uncapped duo Hugo Keenan and Shane Daly had provided different options for Farrell at fullback this weekend, but Keenan instead starts on the left wing – where he played in that same Ireland U20s team as Stockdale in 2016.

Munster man Andrew Conway, who also has previous experience of playing at fullback, continues as the first-choice right wing and will be looking to continue his excellent form for Ireland, while Daly misses out on selection in the matchday 23.

Midfielder Robbie Henshaw – another man with history at fullback – provides backline cover from the Ireland bench.

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Farrell confirmed that Ireland had tried a few different back three combinations during training over the past week but he and his coaching staff have liked what they’ve seen from Stockdale in camp and before that with Ulster.

“We’ve been very impressed with Jacob,” said Farrell. “He is learning the trade pretty quickly in the backfield. He is learning to adapt and get stronger there.

“We think he has all the attributes to push forward in that position and there will be elements of his game we need to keep pushing forward.

“What you don’t see on the wing with Jacob from time to time is his skill level. He has got great vision, he is able to see things and he has great hands as well.

“He hits a brilliant line and you don’t always get to do that from the wing. Hopefully we can get him involved as much as we can.”

Ireland hooker Rob Herring, who plays with Stockdale at Ulster, says there has been no change in his team-mate’s approach due to the positional switch.

“Jacob is a hard trainer and puts in the work every week,” said Herring. “He’s going about his business and he’ll be ready for the weekend.”

Meanwhile, Farrell confirmed that second row Quinn Roux had been unavailable for selection with a shoulder injury and hooker Ronan Kelleher is still on the comeback trail from a quad issue.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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