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Jacob Stockdale: Why playing with Billy Burns is a treat but Ireland's lack of accuracy cost us before our late try

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Stockdale came off the bench to score for Ireland against England

Stockdale came off the bench to score for Ireland against England

�INPHO/Billy Stickland

Stockdale came off the bench to score for Ireland against England

Jacob Stockdale could be forgiven for being something of an uneasy spectator on Saturday afternoon - he had never before been on the Irish bench.

Having been pulled from last week's win over Wales with a calf issue, the Ulster back-three player had to make do with a return to action among Andy Farrell's replacements.

And on the bench was where he stayed until the visitors were 18-0 down, two tries from Jonny May in the first-half having put England in a commanding position.

The famous day Stockdale scored in the Grand Slam-clinching victory on St. Patrick's Day in the same ground will have felt longer than two and a half years ago as they once again found themselves bashing their heads against a sizeable English wall with no way through.

While there was no questioning the Irish effort, they got little reward and once again it was the English forwards getting the better of the battle.

"It was a bit of an arm-wrestle," admitted Stockdale of a contest which takes the Irish losing streak against these opponents to four games.

"Watching from the sideline, it was very physical and to be honest, the point of difference was probably the difference in our accuracy inside their '22', as opposed to their accuracy inside ours.

"It was our accuracy that let us down. We got ourselves into the right positions on the pitch loads of times but we just didn't nail our accuracy and if you do that four, five or six times in a game it's going to let you down.

"Yeah, it's definitely frustrating. You realise that you could have come away from a victory here but unfortunately we didn't do that.

"I think that was pretty much the story of the game, but I thought the lads actually stood up pretty well, were real physical in their defence and offered a lot in attack. It's disappointing.

"There are a lot of new lads in the squad and we're a fairly young team and it's about the experience and learning from the game. So, yeah, the hardest part about playing England away is when you give them an early lead and we did that so that's something as a team we're going to have to learn to do better and start better."

While not a day where the outcome for the team could allow for much personal satisfaction, Stockdale, along with Ulster colleagues Rob Herring, Iain Henderson and Billy Burns, was a part of a much improved Ireland after the break.

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Gripping encounter: Iain Henderson (left) and Caelan Doris in fight for possession

Gripping encounter: Iain Henderson (left) and Caelan Doris in fight for possession

�INPHO/Billy Stickland

Gripping encounter: Iain Henderson (left) and Caelan Doris in fight for possession

His second try in as many games arrived 15 minutes after coming into the game when he collected a neat chip ahead from Burns and broke sharply for the line.

"We were just in phase play," he explained. "I had actually called for the ball, I had called a short line because I thought we maybe had an opportunity to go wide against them.

"Billy just spotted a bit of space in the middle of the pitch and then he made the call for the chip.

"Obviously because I was calling the hard line, I was kind of coming to the line with him anyway. It just worked out as perfect timing and he just popped it over.

"Whenever he calls those kicks, you are expecting them to be on the money. He always gives an opportunity to play outside him.

"To be honest, when you are playing with Bill, he is a very talented footballer and you are always expecting those kicks."

After a barren run by his own high standards prior to this autumn, his 17th and 18th tries have brought him into seventh place in the Irish charts, tied with Geordan Murphy and sandwiched between Andrew Trimble and Girvan Dempsey.

That the scores have come in the closing stages of games that have already slipped from the Irish grasp - England on Saturday and France two weeks prior - make it difficult for Stockdale to grant the return to try-scoring form much significance.

He is, however, hoping his cameo has done enough to earn a recall to Farrell's starting side when the Nations Cup returns to Dublin with the visit of Georgia this weekend.

"It's hard to take personal satisfaction from a performance whenever the team lose," he admitted.

"But what I can take away from it is just that I was able to kind of imprint myself on the game, which is something you always want to do coming off the bench, so I was pretty happy with that.

"Obviously by the time I came on it was a very different game to what it was when the game started so, yeah, I was happy with my performance but it's disappointing as a team to lose away from home.

"Everybody wants to play so I'm hoping I'm on the pitch (this week).

Regardless of what happens against Georgia on Sunday and the week after in a play-off, these two defeats already suffered will be the lasting legacy of this autumn window.

Despite that reality, first-time skipper James Ryan remains sure this evolving Ireland team is headed in the right direction.

"I thought that was a much better performance than the last time we were here," said the man standing in for Johnny Sexton at Twickenham. We had a go and we definitely fired some shots. As I mentioned in the beginning, I thought the team spirit was really good. We're just going to build on that and next time we're going to look to fire even more shots.

"I thought there was good character there. I think we'll get loads from it.

"Look, this is a new group and a new coaching staff. How many players have made their debuts over the last few weeks? It's a new chapter for us. England, in terms of where they're at, they've been together a lot longer so I've no doubt that the gap is closing and we just need to grow now.

"We'll get so much from games like this as a group. I've no doubt that we'll get closer and closer."


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