Jacob Stockdale in a good place as Ulster chase quick double over Harlequins
European Rugby Champions Cup Pool One: Ulster v Harlequins
(tonight, Kingspan Stadium, 7.45pm, live on BT Sport)
JACOB Stockdale claims that he is not particularly at ease with constantly being in the Ulster and Ireland rugby media spotlight but he is certainly getting used to it
The 21-year-old winger will once again hog the headlines if he can produce another
eye-catching performance when Ulster take on Harlequins in the European Champions Cup at the Kingspan Stadium tonight.
Stockdale scored Ulster’s try in the epic 17-5 win over the English team last Sunday at the Stoop, to register his sixth touchdown for his province this season.
At international level, his stock has also risen with a try-a-game average since making his Ireland debut on the summer tour of USA and Japan.
He scored twice in the 28-19 victory over Argentina in the Autumn internationals after also crossing the line in the earlier 38-3 win over South Africa at the Aviva Stadium.
“I’m in the public eye a lot more, which I don’t enjoy so much, but you have to take the good with the bad,” said Stockdale.
“I think the guys here (at Ulster) make it easy, they keep you firmly grounded; it’s easy when you’re going back into Ulster, and having to work hard, you don’t have time to think too much about people saying how good you are.
“I feel very comfortable with all the guys. If I try to drive to standards and stuff, I don’t think they’d be going ‘what’s this 21-year-old doing, he’s only just here?’
“At the same time, there’s guys here who have been playing for Ireland for a long, long time – Tommy (Bowe) and Trimby (Andrew Trimble) – you have to respect that.
“I think it’s easy to get caught up in how good you’re playing, or how successful you’re being but one bad game can turn that round and you’ll have people saying ‘aaw, maybe he isn’t as good as we thought he was’.”
Stockdale says he learned a lot from being in the Ireland camp last month under head coach Joe Schmidt following his relatively low-key baptism on the summer tour.
“It was a great experience, working with different guys, different points of view on how to do different things, it was tough but it was a really good challenge,” he said.
“There’s an incredible wealth of knowledge in Irish rugby; I’ve been lucky enough to have guys around me, who are all vastly experienced in international rugby.
“In camp, you get more of that. With those guys around me, it wouldn’t make any sense not to pick their brains and ask them what they think would be best in certain situations.”
Turning to the task in hand tonight, when there is no margin for error as Ulster need to beat a depleted Harlequins team to keep their hopes of securing a European quarter-final place alive, Stockdale is daring to dream of a first personal appearance in the last eight.
“They’re out of Europe but won’t by any means come over here and roll over and give us an easy win. They’re an incredibly spirited club and they’re an incredibly skilled club, so I think it’s going to be a tough game.” he said,
“We’re expecting a real, real hard fight again. I’ve never got to experience knockout rugby and it’s something I’m really keen to get an opportunity to do.
“To get to the quarter-finals in Europe would be massive for us as a team and for me personally, but at the same time there’s an awful lot of rugby and we’ll have to take each week as it comes, work hard and get one win after another.”