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Cardiff Blues v Ulster: Jacob Stockdale confident Ulster can turn corner in Cardiff

by Michael Sadlier

In the shambles of last month's visit to Edinburgh, when Ulster signed off for the break with a truly horrible third straight PRO12 defeat, Jacob Stockdale stood pretty much alone as someone who emerged largely untarnished by the affair.

Of course the versatile 20-year-old, who can play wing, centre or full-back, only experienced the second half at Murrayfield, after being sprung from the bench with Ulster already looking dead and buried, but he had still managed to inject some urgency into what was a grim evening's work by the squad.

His power and pace made their impact and helped put Ulster back on a slightly sounder-looking footing, and it was hardly surprising when the former Wallace High School pupil also bagged a try during the attempted, but ultimately forlorn, comeback which saw the vistors score 14 points towards the end of the game.

Stockdale was then picked to start against Zebre only for yet more misfortune befall Les Kiss's squad as the weather intervened to bring about the late cancellation of what was meant to be last week's return to action.

"Coming off the bench (in Edinburgh) I just said to myself 'I really need to go hard from the start'," says Stockdale of that attention-grabbing performance which was his first game since suffering a toe injury against Treviso in September.

"I think I did that well (coming off the bench) for the team but obviously it is quite hard to look back at a game you lost in a positive way.

"But on a personal note I thought I did well and made an impact when I came on."

Edinburgh was four weeks ago, and thanks to the Zebre situation Ulster haven't played since. Not only that but they simply have to get their season up and running again by doing it the hard way, namely dodging a potentially season-wrecking fourth straight league defeat while away at Cardiff tomorrow.

"It never really occurred to me the game might be off," Stockdale recalls of last Friday evening.

"It was unfortunate it was called off so late but we had to try and give it every chance because we wanted to play so badly," he adds.

"We had kind of looked at Zebre at home, after a three-week break, as a really good opportunity to kick-start our season and it's frustrating now that we have to go to a place that is much more of a challenge.

"Cardiff away is not an easy place to play but at the same time we knew this game was coming so there is no reason why we can't go out and do a good job."

It's an artificial surface, of course, but then Ulster had no issue with that against Glasgow back in late September when they won and produced what was actually their last consistent performance.

But the pressure is now very much on them to recover ahead of a massively challenging block of games in December which take in the back-to-back European clashes with Clermont and then two straight interpros at home to Connacht and away to Leinster on New Year's Eve.

Continue to trip up and Ulster's season - both in Europe and domestically - might well look shot to pieces before 2017 has dawned. Stockdale reacts to that worrying notion by playing it with as straight a bat as possible.

"We've lost three (league) games on the trot (but four from five if Europe is included) and for us that is not good enough.

"We have aspirations to win the Pro12 and Champions Cup, but we need to get a run of games where we're winning and that is incredibly important for us," says Stockdale

Stockdale admits he has a batle on his hands to tie down a regular slot in Ulster's starting line-up but has a clear determination to make an impact when those opportunities arise at Ulster.

"I need to make sure I am playing as much rugby as I can and that is what I intend to do," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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