Jacob Stockdale will swap his new Lurgan club blazer for his Irish one this week as he heads ‘Down Under’ for the three-Test series against Australia.
The Lurgan Tigers ambassador was presented with his blazer by Warren Gatland, Welsh coach and coach of the last two British & Irish Lions Tours, at a gala dinner hosted by the Lurgan rugby and cricket club.
While Gatland was the keynote speaker at the event in Portadown’s Seagoe Hotel, Stockdale proved a popular figure on the evening along with former British Lion, Ireland and Ulster lock, Jeremy Davidson, who continues to ply his coaching trade in France having joined Brive as head coach.
For Stockdale the focus is now on impressing in the green jersey again after a rapid rise to stardom during the Six Nations Championship.
In his debut Six Nations the versatile winger won a Grand Slam Championship, set a new try scoring record and was named NatWest player of the tournament.
Testing himself against Australia will be a big challenge away from home.
“ It was nice to get picked and I’m pretty excited to see what it’s like. We’re probably getting the heat training out of the way now,” he joked, reflecting on the current heat wave in Northern Ireland.
Stockdale is one of five Ulster players on the Tour party and one he is delighted to see going is scrumhalf John Cooney.
“There’s very few people who deserve it more,” said Stockdale. “He’s been pulling out performance after performance for Ulster. I think we’ll have to change the man of the match award to the ‘John Cooney Award’ for next season so it’s really good to see.”
Having claimed the Grand Slam in the Northern Hemisphere, Stockdale knows how big a deal it would be to win a Wallabies series - last achieved in 1979.
“Ireland is in the best position it’s been in for some time.
“We want to go down and put in three good performances and win the series,” added Stockdale.