Tommy Bowe is backing Jacob Stockdale to refind the prolific form that saw him light up the 2018 Guinness Six Nations.
The Ireland winger enjoyed a scintillating Championship two years ago, breaking the record for the most tries scored across the five games as his seven efforts led Ireland to a memorable Grand Slam triumph.
But the 24-year-old has struggled to maintain his clinical exploits since, scoring just five times in 19 matches after the 2018 Championship ended and currently on a run of seven games without scoring.
Bowe knows a thing or two about scoring for Ireland himself – he racked up 30 tries between 2004 and 2017 – and reckons Stockdale can rediscover his mojo when rugby returns.
“I’m backing Jacob Stockdale to bounce back after a tough year,” the 36-year-old said.
“I know what it’s like as a winger, and sometimes the ball just bounces into your hands and things fall your way.
“In his opening year or two, and during that 2018 Guinness Six Nations, I was scratching my head as it was bouncing into his hands so much!
“Sometimes that just happens – at the minute, it’s just a case of Jacob not dropping his head and sticking to what he’s good at, and trying to be in the right place at the right time.
“It will come again, so I hope that this time off will be a good time for him to settle his head and get excited about coming into a British & Irish Lions year.”
Ireland sat fourth in the Guinness Six Nations table when the 2020 Championship was suspended, beating Scotland and Wales in Dublin before losing 24-12 to England at Twickenham.
Bowe has already tipped new boss Andy Farrell to become a ‘world-class’ coach in the future but acknowledges his side are in a period of transition, with Farrell taking over following Joe Schmidt’s six-year tenure.
The men in green have no shortage of young talent bursting through the ranks, with the likes of Stockdale, James Ryan, Caelan Doris and John Cooney rapidly emerging as stars of the future.
And Bowe, who made 69 appearances for Ireland and was part of a Grand Slam-winning side of 2009, is backing that precocity to come to the fore.
“I think Caelan Doris and Max Deegan are two players in the back row who are really exciting, who are both coming through from the Leinster setup,” he added.
“And then you’ve also got Ronan Kelleher at hooker – following on from Rory Best was always going to be difficult, but Ronan seems like a player who has the ability to do that.
“And John Cooney is also a potential wildcard for a Lions pick, even though he’s not getting a starting spot with Ireland at the minute.
“But he’s a proficient goal-kicker and is a No. 9 who can boss the troops round, like you see him do with Ulster.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he is to have a good season, and even if he isn’t No. 1 for Ireland he could be a wildcard for that Lions setup.”