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Six Nations: How Jacob Stockdale went from living room joy to the thick of Grand Slam action

By David Kelly

Ivan Stockdale was 13 when Jack Kyle helped win Ireland’s first Grand Slam in 1948.

Sixty-one years later, his grandson Jacob was the same age and together they cheered as fellow Ulsterman Tommy Bowe’s try in Cardiff turned the tide towards only the second such feat in Irish rugby history.

Last weekend, as Ireland moved one step closer to only their third Championship clean sweep, all three generations of the Stockdale family were in Dublin to witness this latest assault on a momentous feat.

Jacob, though, was the star of the show, maintaining an almost incredulous scoring streak, watched on by his father Graham and Ivan.

None of them could have comprehended that their family would be central to another epoch-making moment; it seems like only yesterday that the rugby-obsessed child hurtled from his couch in elation as Ireland sealed the sweetest of successes in Cardiff nine years ago.

“We were in the house in Banbridge with all the family,” said the 21-year-old, still seemingly utterly unaffected by the hype generated by his remarkable scoring exploits.

“My uncle and granddad were there that day as well. That was Stephen Jones’ penalty? Yeah, the house went crazy...”

It seems poignant that Bowe should retire on the cusp of what could have been his second Slam; Stockdale has assumed the Monaghan man’s scoring touch in his absence and there seems to be no limit to what he may achieve.

Already Brian O’Driscoll’s record of 46 tries seems readily attainable; Stockdale has already nabbed 10 in just eight appearances.

With six in this Championship, just one more touchdown would mark a seasonal record, pulling him clear of Will Greenwood (2001), Shane Williams (2008) and Chris Ashton (2011).

His double against Scotland saw him become the first multiple try-scorer in three successive matches since 1914.

Unlike an awe-struck public, Stockdale, so representative of the startlingly self-ware new breed of rugby player, takes it all in his stride.

His grandfather handed him his first rugby ball when he was four and he hasn’t stopped running since.

A peripatetic childhood — his father is a minister, currently working in a hospice — saw him move home many times during his youth.

“I know a lot of people in Northern Ireland,” he said.

The rest of the country, and beyond, know him now too.

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