As he prepares for the upcoming World Rugby U20 Championship in Manchester later this month, Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale believes that his experience of playing in the Ulster first-team has turned him into a more confident player.
The versatile defender missed the opening three games of last spring’s U20s Six Nations campaign after Ulster’s director of rugby, Les Kiss, promoted him to the senior ranks, and he felt the benefit of this experience when he returned for the side’s victories over Italy and Scotland.
“The higher level you play, whenever you drop back a level, the level you were at before seems easier,” Stockdale remarked.
“I felt that my match fitness, and my ability to break tackles, became a bit easier. Because I had been playing with guys who’d be playing professional rugby a number of years.”
The Belfast Harlequins clubman made five appearances in the Guinness Pro12 for his province in the season just gone, and he was grateful to Kiss and the Ulster coaching staff for giving him the opportunity to showcase his abilities.
“Personally, it’s been a pretty fantastic season. I got injured at the start of the season, and I was out for about four months, but I got back at the end of January, and it’s just been fantastic since then. I have to give full credit to the coaches up there, they’ve given me the opportunity to play, and I tried to take my chances as well as I could.”
Stockdale was also a member of last year’s Ireland U20s squad in the same competition, and from a fitness and recovery point of view, he now has a better idea of what to expect.
“It is the recovery, because you’ve got four days max in between each game, and that was one thing I took away from it.
“I think you need to approach a Junior World Cup in terms of fitness and speed and getting your recovery. That’s something I learned this year, I knew I wanted to go out lighter, quicker, but maybe not quite as strong,” Stockdale added.
Meanwhile, ahead of their opening game of the tournament against Wales next Tuesday, Ireland have been forced to make one change to their squad. Back-row Will Connors has been ruled out of the competition with an ankle injury, and his place is taken by Ballymena’s Conall Boomer.
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