Jacob Stockdale says he was spurred on by criticisms of his defensive abilities ahead of Ireland’s opening World Cup encounter with Scotland here in Japan.
The Ulster winger was superb at times when facing up to a Scottish attack which looked to exploit openings down each touchline. There was one tackle in particular, on Stuart Hoog five minutes before half-time, which stood out.
The Scottish full-back is electric with ball in hand and he was poised to feed Tommy Seymour outside him as Stockdale approached. Had Hogg found his winger then he was in for a one-on-one with Jordan Larmour inside the Irish 22.
The ball never found its way out. Stockdale sprung from the defensive line even while the pass was being launched and he made contact with Hogg's midriff just as the British and Irish Lion was trying to ship the pill on. The ball spilled to ground and danger was averted.
It was a big moment, for Stockdale and for Ireland.
“We hear everything, you know? We see everything,” said Stockdale when asked about the negative comments that have circulated around some of his past performances for Ulster and for Ireland. “It's just one of those things. If you have a bad defensive day then people say you can't defend. You have a bad attacking game and people say you're not ruthless in attack.
“That's just part of sport. I kind of liked it whenever people slagged me off because then I get to prove them wrong. That's kind of my mantra. Proving wrong and proving right is what I try to live by.”
No-one has ever questioned his attacking instincts. Sixteen tries in 21 games is testament to that and, while he didn't get his name on the scoresheet here, he came close with a trademark break and chip and chase which bought Ireland a good 60 meters up the field and threatened the try line.
“As wingers, all the wingers in our setup would be practising those, wee grubbers ahead and kicks ahead, because they are really dangerous kicks, as today showed. It's something we are practising all the time. It isn't always going to work out for you but sometimes it does.”
All told, Ireland's back three was excellent and this on the back of considerable focus on them given Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway were replacing old sweats in Rob Kearney and Keith Earls. Like Stockdale, Larmour and Conway impressed on both sides of the ball.
Larmour was composed throughout at full-back, dealt well with the high balls sent his way and offered pace and penetration in attack. Conway spilled probably the easiest high ball that fell his way near the start but recovered and scored a superb try lose to the hour.
“I thought Jordan was brilliant,” said Stockdale. “He is a seriously dangerous player and he showed that. He also showed his really good back field coverage and Andrew Conway on the other wing looked really dangerous as well.
“It's good to have lads like that that can fit in seamlessly and whenever Rob and Earlsy get back they are other strings to our bow and serious strength in depth. I don't know who will be playing now but it is just good to have a group of guys performing well.”
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