The Ireland camp seemed that bit more relaxed than usual, though as a cadre of the squad know rather too well, there can be nothing casual on show when it comes to the on-field performance against Japan tomorrow.
Jacob Stockdale is one of five players in Andy Farrell’s starting side who experienced defeat to the Brave Blossoms at the 2017 World Cup but the 25-year-old wasn’t for expending much time reflecting on matters that far in the past and, instead, was up for expanding on more immediate issues.
Due to win his 35th Test cap, as part of a strong back three including Hugo Keenan and Jordan Larmour, Stockdale aired his frustration at missing out on the British and Irish Lions, what he is hoping for from Ireland’s pair of summer Tests and just how good it is to see Stuart McCloskey earn a rare start in an Ireland shirt.
As things have worked out, he is the most experienced member of tomorrow’s Ireland backline and this just over four years after making a try-scoring debut against the USA.
“It did occur to me that there aren’t an awful lot of lads with too many caps this time around,” he observed.
“But I’m only 25 and am still not the finished product and I want to keep improving and evolving as a player and the only way to do that is to take every opportunity and to treat every game as a way to do that.
“When it comes to these two games (Ireland meet the USA at Aviva Stadium next week), I’ve been viewing them as a chance to play international rugby again and improve.”
As for not making the plane to South Africa, he is philosophical over missing out.
“I was disappointed,” he admitted, “but considering I hadn’t played in four of five Six Nations games, I was probably an outside shout.
“But I’m not there and I’ve parked that.”
It will be only McCloskey’s fifth cap since 2016 but Stockdale is backing his Ulster team-mate to make a significant impact.
“Stu has frustratingly missed out with the quality of centres we have but he’s a fantastic player and playing with him for Ulster, well, he’s probably the calm head in that backline,” he stated.
“Everyone is well aware of the attributes he has so to see him get another opportunity in a green shirt is great.”
What is not quite so uplifting from an Ulster point of view is that Farrell intends to play his strongest hand against Japan and, as such, is not offering new caps this week to Robert Baloucoune, Tom O’Toole, James Hume or Nick Timoney.
Will Addison is also not involved, while Rob Herring drops to the bench for Ronan Kelleher where he joins Billy Burns.