NESTLED AMONG THE favourites to be top try-scorer at the World Cup, Jacob Stockdale has some familiarity with Japan – having toured there with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland in 2017.
While the 23-year-old didn’t manage to bag a try in his one start against the Japenese two years ago, he has been prolific in Test rugby since and his finishing edge could be vital for Ireland at this World Cup.
The 23-year-old has been lethal for Ireland in Test rugby. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
All Blacks wing Rieko Ioane remains the favourite to score most tries in many quarters, while there have been plenty of shouts for the likes of Jonny May, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Cheslin Kolbe and George North, but Stockdale is likely to be in the mix, particularly if he sees action against minnows Russia in Pool A.
The prospect of returning to Japan next month is an exciting one for Stockdale, even if he admits to having had a bad first impression of the place on the last visit.
“To be honest, for the first couple of days I didn’t like it at all but the longer you’re there, the more you start to enjoy it and by the end of it, I was loving it,” recalls Stockdale after a training session with Ireland at their camp in Portugal.
“They do everything differently to the way it’s done in Ireland and it’s a big cultural shock, but once you get used to that… I really, really enjoyed it and it’s just a really cool place to be in and to explore.”
Ireland will have brief windows to take in the culture as they visit Chiba, Yokohama, Shizuoka, Kobe and Fukuoka before and during the pool stages of this World Cup, before they hope to head back up to Tokyo and Yokohama for the knock-out games.
Stockdale has been keeping an eye on events elsewhere in recent weeks, meaning he senses that this World Cup will be very open and that several teams have strong chances of contending.
“Obviously, New Zealand are going to be the favourites in most people’s eyes and they obviously showed that at the weekend with the bounce back against Australia,” says Stockdale.