Ulster coach Dan McFarland challenges Jacob Stockdale to impress Ireland boss Andy Farrell

Ulster welcome Toulouse for huge Investec Champions Cup clash

Jacob Stockdale scored a try for Ulster in their New Year’s Day win over Leinster in Dublin, the winger’s sixth in his last 10 appearances for the province (Harry Murphy / SPORTSFILE)

Ulster coach Dan McFarland has challenged winger Jacob Stockdale to continue his rich vein of try-scoring form if he wants to make Andy Farrell’s Six Nations squad.

Stockdale has scored six tries in his last 10 Ulster appearances including one in the New Year’s Day victory over Leinster at the RDS in the province’s last outing.

The 27-year-old has scored 19 tries in 37 caps for Ireland but didn’t feature in last season’s Grand Slam win and missed the World Cup.

With injuries ruling back-three duo Mack Hansen and Jimmy O’Brien out of the Six Nations, Stockdale has one last chance against French giants Toulouse on Saturday night to impress the national management before Farrell announces his squad next week.

“Doing the things that Jacob does well and repeating them will only help him,” said McFarland.

“He’s been very focused about what he’s trying to achieve, he’s had some brilliant counter-attacks, his ability to beat people, put pressure on players.”

“Defensively he’s been working very hard, he’s got a good left boot.”

“Moving forward, I’m not going to second guess Andy Farrell but Jacob will know well that it’s extremely competitive there.

“James Lowe is a left-footed, left winger and he’s the incumbent there and it’s up to Jacob to make sure is form is high, which he has been doing, to make sure he’s competitive in there.

“I know Jacob will be desperate to get out in these next couple of games, in the highest arena at club level, to demonstrate that he’s the man for that job.

“Andy Farrell will, I’m sure be looking at these games very closely.”

Ulster coach Dan McFarland
Ulster coach Dan McFarland

Toulouse are the only side to have won the European Cup five times and arrive in Belfast top of Pool Two with a maximum 10 points and warmed up for the trip to Kingspan Stadium with a 45-0 win over Lyon at the weekend.

“There’s a strong argument that Toulouse are unique – I don’t say that lightly,” said McFarland.

“In rugby there are so many generic ways of playing or standardised ways of playing both in defence and attack.

“Whenever you watch Toulouse, year-in, year-out, they break the mould around that.”

“The way they attack, the way they build their team around that attack is very different to most other teams and that makes it exciting to watch.

“It makes it extremely exciting, but also extremely challenging, to prepare for the. I think there will definitely be elements of the game that are certainly different to the last two weeks, a chunk of elements that are similar to Racing in terms of transition play, the ball changing hands through the kick or turnover, dealing with counter-attack, understanding when and how we can counterattack.

“That will be similar to the Racing game, but chunks of how you defend their attack will be very different.

Ulster will have to stop Antoine Dupont, the superstar French scrum-half scored a try with five minutes left at the Kingspan Stadium to knock Ulster out of the tournament in 2022.

“In terms of his play, he’s a very instinctive player that has a brilliant skillset, he’s a brilliant athlete which gets him out of trouble a lot,” said McFarland.

“You’ve got to be on your toes around the breakdown because anything can happen around there.

“He’ll see gaps and take them, but he has the strength to be able to see off tacklers, to offload to enormous forwards or wingers that are playing off him.

“His kicking game is super, you’ve got to try and get pressure on that because he’ll bang the ball out from a ruck five yards from his own line and get in 40 metres from your line. In rugby terms, that’s priceless.”