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Best backs Ulster rising star Stockdale to fill Ireland's Zebo void


By Jonathan Bradley

With Simon Zebo's decision to leave Munster at the end of this season plunging his international future into doubt, Rory Best believes Ulster team-mate Jacob Stockdale is one man who could help soften the blow for Ireland.

Rising star Stockdale made a try-scoring debut for the national side against USA last summer, and is this week expected to be named in Joe Schmidt's squad for the November internationals against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina.

"Joe will know whether he'll feature but you cannot deny the form Jacob has been in," said Ulster and Ireland captain Best.

"The big thing for Jacob has been to follow one really good season with a summer tour then continue to do the hard work so that you keep improving.

"Ultimately that is the difference between a top international player and a guy who comes in a handful of times but will be in and out.

"The top players are always striving to be better, they're the ones you see out doing extras at the end.

"We have seen a lot of that with Jacob and the way he turned up at the start of pre-season, and the way he was during pre-season, it was no surprise to me the way he started the season in an Ulster shirt.

"I'm sure there will be intricacies in his game that Joe will not be happy with and that he'll want to improve on, but that's the next step for him as well."

Best has declared himself fit ahead of the South Africa Test in just under three weeks' time after making his comeback from a hamstring injury against La Rochelle last weekend.

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