"When mates are texting 'Are you alright?', you know you're getting quite destroyed on social media" 3 weeks ago

"When mates are texting 'Are you alright?', you know you're getting quite destroyed on social media"

"Sometimes the ball can take a real awkward bounce all of a sudden and sometimes it feels a bit unfair."

When Jacob Stockdale slotted the November 4 date in his diary - to help launch Maxol's annual charity Christmas fundraiser for Aware - he was doing so as a player full of optimism about winning his second Guinness Six Nations title.

The Ulster star had been an attacking force in the win over Italy and although he admitted there were certain defensive and positional aspects he needed to brush up on, he was confident he could help Ireland get the job done against France. As we know now, the chips fell against Stockdale and Ireland with France winning 35-27 and, as a result, England winning the championship.

Stockdale made a costly spill, on 29 minutes, that quickly led to a penalty try for France, and he also had his positioning questioned for two more tries by the irrepressible hosts. It was a tough night at the office, and a few days since, but the player stepped up for his duties this morning and did not shy away from a single question in a 35-minute interview that was, at times, unflinching and tough.

"For me personally," he says. "I felt like the basic parts of my game probably let me down. I did some stuff pretty well and then just not holding onto the ball properly, not making the right decision at the right times – that kind of basic bread and butter stuff that maybe you take for granted the odd time. I think that's what let me down in the game. It's a bit disappointing really."

While there has been some questioning and reasoned critiques of his performances and his place in the team, heading into the Autumn Nations Cup, Stockdale's name and character have been used in some harsh and personal attacks on social media. On that, he says:

"I have kinda, over the last year or two, really learned to block out the noise to a certain extent. I feel that is something I have got pretty good at. Funnily enough, when your mates are texting you saying 'Are you alright?', you kind of know that you are getting quite destroyed on social media anyway.

"But you are going to have arm-chair pundits, you are going to have fans who aren't happy with the game. Unfortunately, that's just the nature of it. I think I have got pretty good at being able to have four or five people's opinions that I know are really good rugby players or rugby coaches, and trust their opinions on the matter, and being able to block out that outside noise."

On the latest episode of House of Rugby Ireland (from 11:00 below) Ian Madigan and Eimear Considine, who both have fullback experience, spoke about the criticism Stockdale has faced and how fickle the game can be.

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Jacob Stockdale

"People just have those days," says Considine, "and especially in those conditions. I'm probably standing up for him a bit, as a 15, but he's playing in crappy conditions with a slippery ball.

"And yet, saying that, he should have gathered the ball [before the penalty try call] but he still kept going and did well to get that try at the end. There's no point in knocking a player when he's down, especially when he is young. He's only played two international games in that position. It's not as if he has a life-time of experience there... you have to give the younger times time to develop in a position. It can't just be like a conveyor belt of players."

Madigan was pleased to see Stockdale continued to offer himself up as an attacking threat, and was still out there knocking on the French door all the way up to the 80th minute, but acknowledges it was not the easiest of night's for his Ulster teammate.

Madigan did touch on the fickle nature of professional sport on the big stage and how one error can be soon forgotten while circumstances can often lead to another being thoroughly dissected.

"The mistakes he's made there," Madigan points out, "if someone else covers for him and tries aren't scored off it, it's not as big a deal. With the (second France try), Doris trips up Francois Cros and it's a penalty try. If that ball had been re-gathered by someone and it was kicked 50 metres down the field, it's not a big issue and it's forgotten about pretty quickly.

"Some people need to realise that games can unfold in a certain way that can be really lucky for a player - where you can make a few breaks, score some tries and everyone feels you're brilliant - and you can also be unlucky. A bouncing ball doesn't go your way.

"It probably was one of those nights for Jacob but I also though, on the balance of things, he did some fantastic things, as well. His kicking was excellent, as was the try at the end, and you're not suddenly a bad player off the back of a few individual mistakes. He's definitely a guy Ulster and Ireland need to stand by as he is a world-class player."

Whereas Stockdale appeared blessed with the Midas touch in 2017 and 2018, the following two years have been more grounding experiences. There is no denying that Saturday in Paris was a low point and he has a battle on his hands to stay in the Ireland XV.

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All the same, the fact that he stepped up, fulfilled his obligations today and spoke openly about his game, while raising awareness for a great cause, does tell you a lot about the lad's character.

Maxol brand ambassador Jacob Stockdale has launched its annual charity Christmas fundraiser for Aware. Maxol, Ireland’s leading family-owned forecourt and convenience retailer, is planning to raise more than €70,000 for the mental health charity over the next eight weeks.

WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY IRELAND HERE: 


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Season 3 has returned with Ian Madigan & Eimear Considine as hosts. You can catch up on all our episodes from past seasons and interviews with Conrad Smith, Victor Matfield, Simon Zebo, Jacob Stockdale, Drew Mitchell, Jean De Villiers, Finn Russell, Mike Brown, Brian O'Driscoll, Tana Umaga and much, much more.