At the beginning of February Jacob Stockdale was yet to make an appearance in Rugby’s Greatest Championship – just five weeks later he is the top tryscorer in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations.
The 21-year-old winger has exploded on to the Championship stage, starting all three of Ireland’s matches so far and grabbing doubles against Italy in Round Two and Wales in Round Three.
Stockdale’s scores have highlighted a multitude of talents, running an inside line for his first against Italy and displaying searing pace out wide for his second.
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Against Wales he registered the first try of the game, timing his run to perfection to collect Jonathan Sexton’s glorious bullet-pass.
And his second displayed a big-game mentality as the Ulster man anticipated a miss-pass from Gareth Anscombe, gambled on the intercept and raced away to the Welsh line for the game-deciding score.
“It’s not a bad start to my international career,” said Stockdale. “I think the ball just keeps popping up in the right areas. I’m getting the rewards for that.
“My goal was to play in the Championship by the age of 23. That got accelerated with Simon Zebo going to France and I’m pretty happy with how I’m taking my opportunities so far.
“It’s just how to survive at the top level. You learn a lot about yourself – how you train, how you work when you’re not on the rugby pitch. That’s the biggest thing.
“That stuff I wouldn’t have really done before I came here (to the Ireland squad), it’s something that’s driven by Joe (Schmidt) and the senior players.”
As well as his impressive Championship try-scoring exploits Stockdale has now scored eight tries in just seven international outings.
The Lisburn-born winger made his Ireland debut against the United States last summer, scoring a try of course, after impressing for Ulster where he made his debut at the age of 19 in 2015.
Stockdale also impressed at youth level, competing for his country at two World Rugby Under-20 Championships and catching the eye due to his 6ft 3in build and electric pace.
Prior to beginning his maiden NatWest 6 Nations campaign Stockdale had also been in superb form for Ulster, scoring eight tries in 13 appearances this season.
Another famous Ulster and Ireland wing – Tommy Bowe – announced in January that he will retire from playing rugby at the end of this season.
The 33-year-old scored 14 Championship tries in his time and was a member of the last Ireland team to secure a Grand Slam, in 2009, meaning his comments on Stockdale are suitably apt.
“He backs himself 100 per cent,” said Bowe. “You could see that in that try at the end against Italy when it’s a two on one and he could have passed to Keith Earls, but he backs himself.
“True finishers will always do that. That’s the key to being a try scorer.
“Attack-wise, Jacob has just been incredible. He has really stepped up to the plate so well.”