- By Sports Correspondent Ruth Gorman
He was the new kid on the block last year, now Jacob Stockdale is one of the most dangerous wingers in World Rugby.
Actually, he’s the “best winger in the world” at the moment according to former British and Irish Lion Ugo Monye.
Player of the 2018 Tournament, Stockdale set a new record in the 6 Nations last year scoring 7 tries in 5 games.
His stats speak for themselves. Notching up 26 tries in 50 appearances for Ulster and touching down 12 times in his 14 games for Ireland has propelled him into the spotlight.
His “chip and chase” specialities against the might of New Zealand and Racing 92 provoked more headlines including the ultimate compliment by former Harlequins winger Monye.
"The bigger the stage the better he plays," he said.
"For me he's the best winger in the world. He's a guy who looks like he wants to get better, is doing everything in his power to get better and that's frightening.
"When you've only been on the scene for two years and not even reached your peak, that's pretty scary for everyone else."
He continued, "It's not just about his try-scoring ability but it's about everything else he does as well. He hasn't slowed down at all, he's fairly inexperienced at international level but nothing has phased him and he's got better.”
22-year-old Stockdale was flattered by the comments but told me: “It’s nice to be placed in that category but I don’t agree with him (Monye).
“Every time I go out onto the pitch at training I just try to improve, hopefully I will be the best in the world in a few years but I wouldn’t say I’m there yet.”
Stockdale is with the Ireland squad in Portugal as they prepare for their Guinness 6 Nations opener against England in Dublin next week.
He believes Ireland could have an even more satisfying year ahead.
2018 will be hard to top with Grand Slam success, a series win in Australia and a first home win over back to back World Champions the All Blacks, but Stockdale insists the best is yet to come; an exciting prospect in a World Cup year.
“We’ve played a lot of really good rugby over the last 18 months, but you haven’t seen the best of this Irish team,” claimed the Lurgan Rugby Club member.
“After we beat New Zealand, we did a review and there were a lot of things that Joe (Schmidt) was happy with, we felt we left things out on the pitch; that’s exciting.
“How far can we go in the World Cup? It’s hard to tell. World Cups are a very different animal than any other test match but we’re in a good place, we’ve got a really good squad and we’ve got really good coaches so we have all the attributes to do well and hopefully we do.”
Stockdale revealed during the Autumn Internationals that he builds lego in his down time. He completed the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars ahead of the All Blacks game.
But he’s not sure which set he’ll take to Japan if, as expected, he makes the World Cup squad.
“I’m not sure yet, I might just wait and get some Lego when I’m out there,” he pondered.
“I’m in the middle of building Hogwarts (from Harry Potter) so I’m just focused on completing it at the minute!”
Ireland will be using the upcoming 6 Nations as their own building blocks ahead of the much anticipated World Cup in Japan later this year.
Stockdale was speaking at Brownlow Integrated College as part of the Peace IV ‘Building Positive Relations’ Programme.
The project, lead by Lurgan Rugby and Cricket Club, St Peters GAA Club and Eire Og GAA Club with the support of Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, is to teach values of equity & inclusion, respect, trust and responsibility to promote community reconciliation among young people, where sport becomes the medium for positive change in the community.