Jacob Stockdale: Irish and Ulster winger yearns knockout rugby after try brace against Racing 92 in European Champions Cup

Ulster's Jacob Stockdale goes over for a try against Racing 92
Ulster's Jacob Stockdale goes over for a try against Racing 92

For all Jacob Stockdale has achieved in the past two seasons, the Irish international winger craves playing in a knockout game with Ulster.

The 22-year-old who broke try scoring records in his first Six Nations campaign with Ireland last year and achieved a Grand Slam, has never played in the Ulster colours in a knockout game.

But that yearning could be satisfied next weekend if Ulster can defeat Leicester Tigers at Welford Road and secure a place in the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup - something which indeed would be a first for many of the current young squad.

In a Heineken man of the match display Stockdale showed his brilliance as he scored tries in either half - his second a memorable solo effort - and has scored in every European round so far, with Ulster’s other try coming from debutant winger Robert Baloucoune.

The eventual nail-biting 26-22 win keeps them second in Pool Four behind Racing, but boosted further their chances of making the last eight for the first time since 2014.

Racing scored four tries through Virimi Vakatawa, Simon Zebo, Brice Dulin and Oliver Klemenczak and came back after trailing 23-10 early in the second half, though Finn Russell missed three conversions.

With a golden opportunity now for a quarter-final spot Stockdale said: “I haven’t played knock-out rugby with Ulster before and that’s obviously something I want to tick off. It’s a massive aspiration for me.

“There’s not many guys in the squad that have so for us, do what we have been doing all season and playing as well as we can going the last game.

“Obviously there will be guys in the squad that we can take bits from, like Besty (Rory Best), that have played in those matches.

“It’s about doing the right things against Leicester. We have to beat Leicester first of all to make sure we definitely get the opportunity to play knockout rugby.”

Stockdale also identified his experiences with Ireland as being crucial on a personal and squad basis.

“For me, going into the Ireland team and working along with Joe (Schmidt) and a few of the other coaches you realise how professional he is and how good you have to be to maintain a high level of performance.

“It’s just not being pushed by Joe, but by other senior players in the squad and that’s something that I’ve been doing my best to bring back to Ulster , maybe pulling a few wingers together and doing some footwork, defence or kicking.”