Rugby

Jacob Stockdale out to turn strong Ulster finish into Irish World Cup squad place

Jacob Stockdale is determined to show good form with Ulster to close out the season and secure a place in Ireland’s World Cup squad. Picture by PA
Jacob Stockdale is determined to show good form with Ulster to close out the season and secure a place in Ireland’s World Cup squad. Picture by PA

Jacob Stockdale is hoping for a big end to the season with Ulster will be enough to force his way into Andy Farrell’s Ireland World Cup squad. 

Ulster have a guaranteed three games remaining in the United Rugby Championship, two regular season games starting with the Dragons in Belfast tonight and a home quarter-final, with two more matches possible if Dan McFarland’s side reach the final. 

Stockdale was part of the Six Nations squad but never got any game-time. Back with Ulster the winger has shown glimpses of his 2018 form which saw him score 20 tries for club and country, he has secured his future by signing a new two-year deal with his native province. 

Showing honesty and maturity Stockdale understood Farrell’s decision not to use him in the Six Nations. 

“I want to put myself in the best possible position that I can to be on that plane to France,” he said. 

“Obviously there’s some very talented wingers playing for Ireland who are in great form, I saw that during the Six Nations. I couldn’t get a look in and rightfully so.

“You don’t change a winning team and ‘Lowey’ (James Lowe) and Mack [Hansen] have been brilliant for the last 18 months really.” 

“For me, it’s trying to perform the best I can over the next couple of games and letting my rugby do the talking.

“All of them are really good guys and I get on with them all really well, there’s no egos or anything like that.

“There’s a really good culture within the Ireland team right now and I think you can probably see that off the pitch.

“Lads are always keen to help each other out and that was probably the role that I played during the Six Nations, making sure that I was the best possible team-mate and putting those guys in the best possible position to win Test matches.

“‘Faz’ (Andy Farrell) is brilliant, we had a pretty frank conversation at the start of the Six Nations and I was honest with him and said that I didn’t necessarily feel as if I deserved to be there.

“I was obviously very happy to be picked. He assured me it was because he trusted me as a player, which was obviously nice to hear. 

“I think through the course of the Six Nations he kept checking in, updating me on how he felt I was going.” 

“I suppose I just wanted to make sure that I showed him I could be a good team-mate whether it was on the pitch or not, that I could add value.” 

Curtailed by injury over the last two seasons, Stockdale is ready to prove he is back to his best. 

“I’m someone who expects a lot of myself all the time,” he said.

“I probably expected a wee bit too much of myself, being out for a full year and expecting to come back and be exactly where I was a year beforehand.  

“That, coupled with a few more injuries, it just felt like nothing was really going my way. That can be a tough place to be.

“It’s a learning curve for me, probably in terms of just going a wee bit easier on myself, realise that I’m not going to be the best player in the world every time I step on the pitch.

“There’s other factors that come into play, I feel like I’ve learnt that lesson and I’m ready to crack on and get stuck into some proper, good rugby now.”