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Jacob Stockdale’s Performance Last Night Will Make It Difficult For Joe Schmidt To Ignore Him

For the most part, Ulster’s Champions Cup victory over Wasps at the Kingspan Stadium last night was not easy on the eye.ย 

The first half was one of the most forgettable opening 40 minutes of rugby you will likely this season with both sides guilty, time and time again, of handling errors, unforced mistakes and poor kicking from hand.

Ben Whitehouse’s officiating didn’t help matters but the 6-3 scoreline at halftime told you everything you needed to know about the first half. And it was a shame because the atmosphere was electric at the Belfast ground and the home support were desperately looking for something to cheer about.

Thankfully, Jacob Stockdale, along with Charles Piutau and Stuart McCloskey, stood up in the second half to provide some great entertainment, much to the relief of the supporters and indeed the media inside the ground.

The game’s opening try was scored by Stockdale when he latched on to the end of Piutau pass. The All Black created the score by committing Christian Wade and Will Le Roux, which created the space for Stockdale. The young Ulster winger still had work to do however, and he used his excellent turn of pace to touch down in the corner.

Just two minutes later, Ulster got their second try of the game and with that, took the lead for the first time in the match. On this occasion, Stockdale turned provider as he produced an improvised one-handed offload for McCloskey to grasp who himself then bulldozed over the line, as the Bangor Bulldozer likes to do.

Stockdale was electric throughout the game, even in the first half he made a scintillating line break which should have resulted in a try. His post-match attacking statistics read as follows – 13 carries, 66 metres gained, four clean line breaks and five defenders beaten – not a bad night’s work.

What Joe Schmidt wants from his wingers is the whole package, there is no point in being great in attack if you cannot equally back that up with defensive duties. Well, Schmidt would have been impressed the 21-year-old in this regard as he kept the electric Christian Wade quiet for the whole game.

Stockdale got up in the English man’s face as quickly as possible as soon as he received the ball throughout the 80-minutes, not allowing the English winger any time to generate that speed and acceleration which can make him so deadly.

He told the media in the post-match press conference how happy he was with his defensive duties too.

“I was quite happy, he’s [Wade] a pretty electric player and you can’t give him any space on the ball, so that’s what I was trying to do, get up in his face as much as I could and I feel like I did that well for the most part.

“There was one at the end there when he got outside me a wee bit and roasted me a wee bit but I managed to get back and cover him so I was quite happy in that respect, yeah.”

Already we are seeing two wingers in Ireland who are currently head and shoulders above the rest and that’s Stockdale and Munster’s Keith Earls. If both of these players continue their fine form in Europe over the next week or so, you can fully expect them to be lining out for Ireland against South Africa at the Aviva Stadium on November 11.

Joe Launchbury discusses his side's 19-9 loss to Ulster in Belfast

Posted by Pundit Arena Rugby on Friday, October 13, 2017

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email or on Twitter