PRO12 RUGBY: Jacob Stockdale relishing first senior start for Ulster

Jacob Stockdale in action against Treviso
Jacob Stockdale in action against Treviso

A week after making his competitive debut off the bench, young Ulster back Jacob Stockdale will earn his first senior start on Friday night when the Province face Newport Gwent Dragons in a rearranged Guinness PRO12 match at Kingspan Stadium (7.35pm).

The Ireland U20 international is one of four changes to the Ulster side for the game after last week’s bonus point securing win over Treviso in Italy.

Stockdale is elevated from the bench and will start on the wing, while lock Peter Browne also is promoted, replacing Franco van Der Merwe in the second row with the South African being rested having played in 16 of Ulster’s 18 games this season to date.

Robbie Diack returns from injury and there is big boost with the return of South African international scrumhalf, Ruan Pienaar, who missed the last two games due to illness.

There was an additional boost for the side when Ireland released outhalf Paddy Jackson.

He is named on the bench, along with the fit again Nick Williams.

A win for Ulster will see them go top of the Guinness PRO12.

For Stockdale it is a massive opportunity and one which would probably have come sooner had it not been for suffering an injury with his clubside Harelquins having been involved in the Ulster pre-season games.

“That’s just the way it is, unfortunately,” said the 19-year-old. “I was really pushing towards getting a few caps then unfortunately my groin went and there is not a lot you can do about it.

“I’ve worked back from it now and I’m playing some good rugby.

“I have only been back about a month so I haven’t had to wait too long for my first cap. I had a couple of good games for Quins and a couple for the ‘A’ team and played well there and then got a call up to the senior team.”

The former Wallace pupil was delighted to get the call-up last week.

“There is real excitement when you’re told you are in the squad. Me and Lorcan Dow (who made his competitive debut off the bench last week) live together and it was really exciting for us.

“We were walking around the house constantly talking about it, the build-up is nerve-racking but it was great.”