Jacob Stockdale can’t wait to get back to Japan next month with a trip to Twickenham to face England this Saturday underlining just how close the Ireland wing is to a World Cup debut.
Stockdale, 23, got his first taste of Test rugby on Ireland’s 2017 summer tour of the USA and Japan, winning his first cap against the Americans and a second a fortnight later against the Brave Blossoms.
The Ulster wing is now less than a month from returning to Japan ahead of Ireland’s World Cup pool opener against Scotland on September 22 and after eight weeks of pre-season training in the national training camp, the chance to get his season up and running at Twickenham, where Stockdale helped Ireland win the Grand Slam in 2018, has brought the challenges ahead into sharp focus.
“At the start of pre-season you're kinda going, ‘I've got a lot of running to get through before I can even think about going to the World Cup’,” Stockdale said today.
“But it's come up very, very quickly and it's becoming a proper reality that in less than a month we'll be in Japan, which is just dead exciting.
“Pretty good memories of Twickenham but at the same time, it's a long time ago so yeah, I'm just excited to get back into playing rugby.
“I haven't played in a couple of months and you're always excited for that first game back after pre-season. I'm just excited about the opportunity of getting stuck into it, really.”
Ireland will fly to London on Thursday direct from Faro, Portugal, where the squad have been training at nearby Quinta do Lago Campus for the past week and Stockdale said the camp will be hugely beneficial for acclimatising to the heat they can expect in Japan.
“Definitely, I mean this is probably not even as warm as it was the last time we played in Japan. That was in June so it was probably a bit warmer than this time around. But it will be very hot and very humid so getting this type of training in, in this weather, it really does help acclimatise you to those conditions.”
The wing, with 14 tries in 19 Tests, admitted his first impressions of Japan two years ago were not great but he quickly grew to love the country.
“To be honest, for the first couple of days I didn't like it at all, but the longer you're there, the more you start to enjoy it and by the end of it, I was loving it. So I'm really excited about going back.
“They do everything differently to the way it's done in Ireland and it’s a big cultural shock, but once you get used to that...like, I really, really enjoyed it and it's just a really cool place to be in and to explore.”