Six Nations 2018: Ireland star Jacob Stockdale reveals background to championship success | Rugby Union | Sport


The Ulster flier, a committed Christian with a cross tattooed on his arm, has enjoyed a heavenly start to his Test career which has seen the 21-year-old top of the championship try-scoring charts.

Two tries apiece in his last three appearances against Italy, Wales and Scotland has marked Stockdale out as the angel of death for England on Saturday.

“My dad is a minister and he moved about a bit from church to church and then he left the ministry and went into chaplaincy in prisons and hospices,” said Stockdale. “I always grew up in a church environment, a Christian environment so it’s something that’s always been important to my life, and our life as a family.

“My uncle played a bit of rugby but my dad and granddad were really good.

They still try to give me tips!” Stockdale is two years ahead of schedule having set himself a target of playing in the championship by the age of 23. There is been picked by your country and there is making the sort of mark he has over the past six weeks.

“It’s not a bad start to my international career. I think the ball just keeps popping up in the right areas. I’m getting the rewards for that,” said Stockdale. “To a certain extent, it’s weird to realise I’m at this level now and playing regularly in the Six Nations. If you told me that a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed it.

“On the other hand, I’ve worked really hard to get where I am, putting in good performances for Ulster and Ireland U20s, stuff like that, so I feel like I have built towards it. But I’m pretty pleased at how it has accelerated more than I expected.”

Stockdale’s step and pace have stood out through this championship but his calling card has been the interception try which did for Wales and came out once more against Scotland last weekend.

It is by definition a gambler’s play – mis-time your rush out of the defensive line and a huge hole is exposed – but so far so good for Stockdale and Ireland.

“I’ve tried a few intercepts playing for Ulster and they haven’t come off that many times,” he said. But it’s just when you see the opportunity you go for it. It’s split-second stuff – you just have to be able to catch it and go.

“To be honest, it’s just instinctive and whenever you get the ball, the next thing in your head is getting to the tryline. It’s more afterwards when you touch down you realise: ‘that could have gone very wrong!’”

If he can pull another rabbit out of the hat on his first visit to Twickenham this weekend he will break the Six Nations record jointly held by Shane Williams, Chris Ashton and Will Greenwood for most tries in a season.

“I’m not thinking of that, I’m focusing on the game and performing as well as I can for myself and the team. And then if that comes up, happy days,” he said.

He was a 12-year-old watching in the family home at Banbridge in County Down the last time Ireland played for, and won, a Grand Slam.

“We watched the Wales game with the family – I think my uncle and granddad were there that day as well. The house went crazy,” he recalled.

Now it is his turn to inspire a nation. Ten tries in eight appearances since his debut against USA last summer has done just that but the job, for him and for Ireland is not done yet.

“We are the Six Nations champions now but at the same time we want to go over to England and we want to get a Grand Slam,” he said.

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