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Watch: I played a trick on my family over Ireland debut, says Stockdale

By Jonathan Bradley

Coming from a rugby mad family, one can only imagine the excitement felt by the parents of Jacob Stockdale as they heard the news that their son would be making his Ireland debut against the USA in far-off New Jersey.

No doubt they would have been thrilled by young Jacob’s rapid ascension from Ulster Academy player to Test starter...if only he had told them.

Getting the nod early in the week that he’d be making his Test bow against the Eagles, Stockdale took advantage of the insider info and the family WhatsApp group to have some fun at his poor mother’s expense.

“I played a trick on my parents, I told them it was bad news to start with,” he laughed.

“My mum was having to say ‘ach it doesn’t matter, we didn’t want you to play for Ireland anyway’.

“Then I told them that I was picked and both my parents and my sisters went crazy. They were really proud.

“I have always gotten a lot of support from them.”

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First up: Jacob Stockdale scores his first Ulster try against Dragons. Photo: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

While he still found time for a bit of fun at the expense of those eagerly awaiting news at home, he admitted that his own reaction to getting the nod from Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was slightly less carefree.

“It was probably a bit of panic to be honest,” he conceded.

“Joe named the starting team after our second training session together and I was still learning the calls when I found out I would be starting against the USA.

 “It was incredibly exciting but nerve-racking as well.

“Joe Schmidt is a brilliant coach and I took a lot from the likes of Ronan O’Gara and Felix Jones as well, they were really helpful.

“You are going up into the next level of rugby and once you come back down a level it feels a bit easier.”

After making a try-scoring bow on the Test scene, the 21-year-old had little inclination to rest on his laurels, his work ethic over the summer break praised this week by Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss.

It has certainly showed since his return to provincial colours, the former Wallace High stand-out scoring twice in his two outings so far.

The brace of tries take his tally to 11 in his last 20 games for Ulster, stats that will surely see him stay in the back-three for now despite a previously stated preference for playing centre.

“I’m loving playing in the back three and I’m more than happy to play wherever I can,” he said.

“If my opportunities come at wing or full back I’m more than happy to play there, and at the same time if an opportunity comes at 13 I’ll put my hand up to play there as well.

“Being a winger is pretty different to 20 years ago, you wouldn’t have found a 6ft 3 winger then.

“It’s just the way rugby has evolved, you have to be an all rounded player. You just can’t be a fast guy that scores tries.

“Ulster are blessed with some of the most exciting backs in European rugby, it’s brilliant to be in the mix with those guys and to be on the team sheet with them.

“Competition breeds success and I’m a big believer in that. We try to push each other as hard as we can in training and when we get to the game it feels easier, not that it’s ever easy though.

“I think the way we push each other is really healthy.”

Preparing to face the Dragons at Kingspan Stadium tonight (7.35pm kick-off), it is a fixture he has fond memories of having bagged a first Ulster try when the region were over last year.

But after last week’s big win against Scarlets, Stockdale said the side have done their utmost to avoid any complacency.

“I think Rob Lyttle probably has fonder memories than me because he got two last year. I was a bit raging about that.

“There is a tendency to maybe become a bit complacent and get ahead of ourselves but we are just focusing on being a week to week team.

“We’re just saying ‘this is the challenge in front of us now and what are we going to do to make sure we overcome that’.”

  • Ulster v Dragons; Guinness PRO14 Championship:  Kingspan Stadium, Tonight, 7.35pm

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