Jacob Stockdale on the moment in Italy game that set him up for memorable November
Jacob Stockdale took some convincing that he was playing Italy last month.
The Ulster and Ireland winger enjoyed an incredibly successful 2017/18 - from a personal and team perspective - but a hamstring tear delayed the start to this season. While teammates, and rivals for an Irish jersey, tore into it from the get-go, Stockdale had to go easy.
When he did return for Ulster, it was as if he had not missed a beat. Tries followed appearances but Stockdale himself admits he was not fully up to speed by the time the November internationals came around.
The 22-year-old sat down with Andrew Trimble at Kingspan Stadium for Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby [from 2:30 below] and spoke about making the trip to Chicago, and the moment he knew he was back in decent form.
In late October, ahead of the November 3 date with Italy at Soldier Field, Joe Schmidt retained several senior stars at Carton House. Stockdale, Rhys Ruddock, Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy and Sean Cronin were all told to pack their bags.
With big games coming against Argentina and New Zealand, in quick succession, some jetting off may have worried if the would not get a look in unless they had a stormer against the Azzurri.
Was Stockdale concerned that the big lads were staying in Maynooth, asked Trimble, while he was jetting off to the USA. He replied:
"I'm not a second 15 player!
"In fairness, in my head, that week leading up to the game in Chicago, you do the maths. You think, 'Okay, he'll play here and maybe I'll play here'. And then you figure, okay I don't think I'm going to Chicago.
"And then I got down to camp and, in fairness, I should have seen the signs. I was getting all the emails and I was in the WhatsApp group. Like, you're going to Chicago!
"But I was telling myself I wasn't going to be. And then I was, and I was starting. I was a wee bit worried, but Joe obviously knows his stuff and about how to retain a team."
Telling himself he needed a lightning start, Stockdale delivered just that. His first touch of the ball saw him field a clearing kick, make a line break, leave a couple of Italian in his wake and gained a shade under 50 metres for his team.
"You catch a hundred kick-offs and that sort of a break happens once in a hundred times," he said, "but it was quite a handy way to get back into it."
WATCH THE LATEST HOUSE OF RUGBY EPISODE HERE: