Jacob Stockdale was on top of the world after starring in Ireland’s 2018 Grand Slam success – and the winger says he will spend the rest of his career chasing that feeling again.
Stockdale scored a record seven tries in a single Championship, including two in successive home games against Italy, Wales and Scotland before a memorable solo effort against England at Twickenham.
Just 21 at the time, Stockdale was named Player of the Championship days after that Twickenham triumph and admits it is only in hindsight that he fully appreciates the magnitude of what both he and they achieved.
“After we won the Grand Slam, the couple of days afterwards, boys who had been through a lot of Six Nations tournaments kind of said to me this doesn’t happy very often, make sure you enjoy it,” he told IrishRugby.ie.
“I did enjoy it but I don’t think I realised the full extent of how rare winning a Grand Slam at your first go is.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to do it and now for the next 10 years or however long I’ll be playing the game for, I’ll just be trying to help the team chase that again and recreate it.”
Stockdale’s try against England, where he chipped ahead from tight on the left touchline and beat the Red Rose defence to dot down, will be played over and over again but the Ulster player claims his second try against Wales was the most important of the Championship.
Ireland bossed the Round 3 encounter but Wales roared back late on, reducing the lead to 30-27 as the clock neared 80 minutes. In possession, Warren Gatland’s men were testing Ireland’s defence, seeking a way through to win the game at the death.
Ireland’s defence rushed up, leaving space out wide for Wales’ Gareth Anscombe to exploit, but his pass was read perfectly by Stockdale, who plucked the ball out of the air and sprinted up the other end to score.
“The one thing that sticks out in my memory about that game was how much the try meant to the lads as a team,” he added.
“Wales were really starting to come at us and were putting us under increasing pressure. I just remember making that split-second read and suddenly I had the ball in my hands. Getting to score an intercept try like that to finish the game off was pretty cool.
“They were two very different tries in the match. The first try was really created by Johnny [Sexton], it was just an incredible pass from him.
“I remember at the time hoping he would throw the pass as I knew I was in space off the scrum and could get in but wasn’t sure if he was going to. But, in fairness, he just ripped an absolute screamer of a pass across to me and I managed to get into the corner which was pretty good.
“And then intercept tries are always different I suppose. They’re pretty nice as you get to run them in and usually get to enjoy the moment a wee bit more as you’re running in.
“That one against Wales I actually remember thinking there was a Welsh player right on my heels so you’ll see watching it back, I absolutely gassed it to the line as quickly as I could even though nobody had really bothered to chase me. I probably could have enjoyed it that bit more.”
Ireland are currently chasing a second Guinness Six Nations title in three years, despite the coronavirus pandemic pausing the 2020 Championship before the final round.
Andy Farrell’s side have two matches to play – at home to Italy and away to France – and know that a bonus-point win in both matches would secure the title.
“I really hope we create more moments like that as a team in the years ahead,” Stockdale added.
“They’re the special moments that stick with you and I’m very grateful to have one Grand Slam under my belt and it’s something that nobody will be able to take away from me.”