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Top scorer Stockdale giving me selection headache: Kiss

By Jonathan Bradley

With an All Black and a trio of Irish internationals vying for minutes in the Ulster back three, there would have been considerably long odds in the summer of Jacob Stockdale leading the province's try-scoring charts this late in the season.

And yet, having made only five starts this year, and even with Charles Piutau, Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy to contend with, the 20-year-old's brace of scores in the 37-17 victory over Glasgow at the weekend were his fifth and sixth of the season, just two shy of former Ulsterman Tommy Seymour for the PRO12's league lead.

A player who looked a class apart as far back as his school days at Wallace, the readiness for this level of rugby shown by a man still six weeks shy of his 21st birthday has still been impressive.

Not for the first time this year, his showing on Saturday displayed a good rugby brain as well as the turn of pace that allows him to burst onto the ball.

Director of Rugby Les Kiss has been impressed with his attitude too.

"We knew what Jacob had in the past couple of years, but in terms of being able to step up it has been testament to what he has been able to put in," said the Australian.

"Even with the work he has done away from the training pitch. He gets in front of the video and is always asking questions and wanting to learn."

Eye-catching performances have not always led to him keeping his place this season as more established names rotate in and out of the wing berths, although he previously expressed a desire to play centre while appearing at full-back for the Irish Under-20 side in last summer's World Championships.

In what could become a delicate balancing act to keep all of his options happy, Kiss further revealed that he and the Lisburn native have already spoken about the need for patience as he aims to make a starting jersey his own.

"We had a good discussion this week about where he sits in the make-up because we have got some good options there as well, boys coming back from national camp, and he is enthusiastic about whatever part he plays at this stage," he said.

"But he is certainly pushing all the right buttons.

"I will have a cut of him for that pass in the (Glasgow) second half, he should have put it long, and he just put us under a bit of pressure, but I know he knew straight away it was not the right decision.

"But he backed himself brilliantly a couple of times in the game which is crucial for us.

"His first try, I thought Luke (Marshall), who is so valuable for us at that first, second, third receiver - he can play the line and run himself - and he put Jacob into a nice hole.

"He is certainly asking a lot of questions about himself and about where he is going to go and he is an ambitious young man. We will see how it goes.

"It does put pressure on selection, but we have to make it work somehow."

Belfast Telegraph


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