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Tuesday 16 October 2018

Stockdale is rising

Winger has to learn to defend as well as he can score tries

SCORING MACHINE: Jacob Stockdale celebrates after scoring Ireland’s and his second try during the Six Nations match against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile
SCORING MACHINE: Jacob Stockdale celebrates after scoring Ireland’s and his second try during the Six Nations match against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile

The records have already been falling at the feet of Jacob Stockdale.

He became the second player in the history of the championship, whether that has been the Four (1883-1909 & 1932-1939), Five (1910-1931 & 1940-1999) or Six Nations (2000-) to pounce for two or more tries in three consecutive championship matches last Saturday, joining England's Cyril Lowe from 1914.

The 21-year-old Ulsterman needs one more to move ahead of six-shooters England's Will Greenwood (2001), Wales' Shane Williams (2008) and Chris Ashton (2011) on seven tries in five Six Nations matches.

Smile

He is also the first Irish player to score half-a-dozen tries in a single championship campaign, eclipsing the five by Brian O'Driscoll in 2000 and Tommy Bowe in 2012.

All of this in Stockdale's first Six Nations. No wonder there is a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon spread across the face of another one of Ireland's bright young things.

What about the prospect of becoming the greatest single season try-scorer in the competition?

"I'm not thinking of that," he said. "I'm focusing on the game and performing as well as I can for myself and the team and then if that comes up, happy days."

Whatever about the harvest of tries, Stockdale is just stoked to be here.

"It's weird to realise I'm at this level now and playing regularly in the Six Nations," he said. "If you told me that a year ago, I wouldn't have believed it."

There have been the records broken and there have also been the breakdowns in defence.

WORKING HARD: Scotland’s Huw Jones is tackled by Jacob Stockdale
WORKING HARD: Scotland’s Huw Jones is tackled by Jacob Stockdale

"It's been really important not to get wound up about making mistakes or having a bad game.

"You just kick on when you have a bad game," he said.

"If you focus too long on it, you can get yourself into a slump and then you are playing bad game after bad game."

The attacking side of the game has always come naturally.

The discipline of defence has been a work in progress.

"Yeah, look obviously coming into a new team and a new defensive system, and a new 13 is inside you, it's something that I've had to kind of learn on the run."

It certainly has as the Wallace High School graduate has bedded-in with Robbie Henshaw, Chris Farrell and Garry Ringrose across five matches.

This is where revered defence coach Andy Farrell (right) has been invaluable.

"He's been fantastic in terms of developing me within the system and developing me as a winger defensively.

"I was actually quite pleased with how my defence went against Scotland.

"I felt I stayed within the system quite well and didn't really give them any attacking platform out wide."

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