Jacob Stockdale is not just refusing to press the panic button on Ireland’s attack, the wing is relishing the opportunity to right some wrongs against Samoa on Saturday.
That the final game of Ireland’s Pool A campaign at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium has so much riding on it — including the possibility of an early flight home from Japan — has not cowed Stockdale one bit. Just the opposite. Nor the fact that Ireland have failed to fire with any consistency since beating Scotland in their opening game and jumping out into a 12-3 lead against Japan six days later.
What happened after that defeat has plagued the Irish camp since, with the loss to the Brave Blossoms still shadowing their every move, including the subsequent bonus-point win over Russia last Thursday.
Stockdale sat that game out in Kobe and is yet to get on the scoresheet in his debut World Cup, the most recent of his 16 Test tries in 23 appearances for Ireland coming with a double in the warm-up win over Wales in Cardiff on August 31.
Yet the move south-west from Kobe to Fukuoka and a weekend off has refreshed the 23-year-old and Stockdale is excited about the possibilities lying in wait this weekend as Ireland look to secure a quarter-final berth.
“Obviously we would rather if it was secured by now but it’s the nature of rugby. It’s exciting to go into a weekend where anything can happen,” he said.
All we can focus on is playing Samoa and doing the best we can against them and then however the Japan-Scotland game works out, we will see where we are at.
“There’s just a few things we need to sharpen up on,” Stockdale said of Ireland’s attack. “I don’t think we’re at panic stations or anything like that, you can see we’re getting into our shape nicely, there’s just the odd pass not going to hand or maybe we’re not making the right decisions so those kinds of small one-to-two per cent things are making all the difference and they’re really easy to fix.
“We know how good we are as a team and we know our ability. Whenever we’re switched on and raring to go, we can do that. We know that there can be a dramatic change in a week. We know how good we are and how we can turn that around pretty quickly. It’s not a huge foundational issue, it just needs a small bit of tweaking.”
That Ireland must lay down a marker with their performance against Samoa if they are to progress to the quarter-finals with any momentum appears to be universally accepted amongst the Irish squad. Yet Stockdale recognises it will need just that sort of display to get past the Samoans.
“To beat Samoa, they’re a pretty good team in their own right, we’d really need a bonus point against them, so to beat them you have to put in a commanding performance anyway. If we do that and achieve the bonus point we need to get out of the group then we’ll be in a good position.
“They’re massively dangerous, they’ve got a lot of really superb individual players and a lot of physicality. You look at someone like Tim Nanai-Williams at full-back, probably the smallest player in their team but he’s a strong boy and some of his footwork is incredible. They’re going to bring a really physical game-plan and try to win collisions against us. It’s just one of those things where we’ve got to front up and start winning collisions and then we can put our own marker on the game after that.”
Naturally, for a winger with a thirst for tries, Stockdale is raring to go in search of a try bonus point on Saturday.
It’s not something I’ve really experienced yet but you look at the way we won the Six Nations in 2015, we were away to Scotland and had to score as many points as we could and we went out and killed it.
“This squad is perfectly capable of doing it. I haven’t had the experience of that but I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait.
“At the same time, the way that we’ll get that bonus point is by playing our gameplan and doing what we do well.
“So it doesn’t really change massively from just trying to win a game to getting a bonus-point. But at the same time, there’s that little change of mentality from just trying to get the win to trying to get as many tries as possible.”