Stockdale warm on Ireland’s back three
Jacob Stockdale believes Ireland’s new-look back-three is dripping with attacking potential.
Ulster powerhouse Stockdale will link up with speed king Jordan Larmour at full-back and Andrew Conway on the other flank as Ireland finally open their World Cup campaign against Scotland on Sunday.
Joe Schmidt’s men are missing stalwart full-back Rob Kearney and the ultra-reliable wing Keith Earls, with both men unable to shake off niggles in time to feature in Yokohama.
But Stockdale sees the re-jig as a golden opportunity for Ireland to bolster their strike game, backing Larmour and Conway to light up the opening Pool A encounter.
“Obviously it’s a loss not to have Rob Kearney and Keith Earls, as they are so experienced,” said Stockdale.
“But Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour have played a lot of rugby for Ireland, and I’ve played a fair bit of rugby with them too.
“They are both exciting players to get to play with. They want to get onto the ball and attack, so as a winger that’s very exciting.”
Arch-finisher Stockdale already boasts 16 tries in 21 Test matches, which leaves him equal 10th on the nation’s try-scoring record – and all at the tender age of 23.
The Lisburn native will bid to extend that remarkable scoring record in Sunday’s pivotal clash with the Scots, and admitted to watching on in mild envy and great respect of Japan’s hat-trick hero Kotaro Matsushima.
Star wing Matsushima bagged a try treble as hosts Japan subdued Russia 30-10 to open the World Cup on Friday night.
Admitting to finding the tournament’s long-awaited arrival slightly surreal, Stockdale said he would love to emulate Matsushima’s prolific start, but that he also expected a stern challenge against Japan in Ireland’s second match of the tournament.
“When the pre-season started you thought it was going to be an age but it’s come around very quickly,” said Stockdale.
“The buzz around the World Cup in general, it’s a weird feeling to see it kick off and that it’s finally started.
“You can get a lot of messages from home, there’s a lot of buzz from home with people saying they are looking forward to watching it.
“Playing against Kotaro Matsushima two years ago was my second Test for Ireland, and he’s a serious handful.
“He’s got good gas, he doesn’t look that big but he’s very strong.
“He took his tries very well last night and was probably unlucky not to get a fourth.
“That’s exactly how you’d like it to go as a winger for your first game in the World Cup.
“He’s dangerous, so next week I’ll definitely have to take a real look at him and work out how to defend against him.”