Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton believes Jacob Stockdale can reach even greater heights having committed his long-term future to Ulster and Irish rugby.
In an exellent 24 hours worth of business for the IRFU, both Stockdale and Leinster lock James Ryan signed their first central contracts this week with deals running until the summer of 2023. Graduates from the under-20s crop that reached a World Cup final in 2016, both were central to the Grand Slam for the senior side two years later and Sexton can only see the duo increasing their importance to the national cause in the coming seasons.
"They broke through in 2018 when we won the Grand Slam and they've been getting better and better," he said ahead of Saturday's Six Nations clash with Wales in Dublin. "They're going from strength to strength in terms of their personalities and their leadership.
"They're contributing more to the team now.
"They had some outstanding performances in 2018 but they're taking much more of a leadership role now which is great."
Stockdale, who will start for Andy Farrell’s side against Wales at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow (2.15pm kick-off), is already among Ireland’s top 10 try scorers having crossed the whitewash 16 times in just 26 caps.
He has been an equally important figure for Ulster where his scoring feats have helped the side to the knock-out stages of the Heineken Champions Cup in consecutive seasons.
Still just 23-years-old, he is looking forward to his continued progression in both the white and green jersey.
“I am delighted to have signed an IRFU contract,” he said. “I am involved with two ambitious squads and I know I will continue to develop as a player in both environments.
“Things have been going really well at Ulster and there are exciting things happening in the Ireland set-up and the IRFU High Performance Centre is world class.
“I look forward to performing on the field for both Ulster and Ireland.”
Stockdale’s previous deal was signed in the middle of his record-breaking 2018 Six Nations but this will be his first wholly funded by the IRFU.