Jacob Stockdale relishing Six Nations chance after slimming down 

Ireland host England at the Aviva to concludes this season's tournament
Jacob Stockdale relishing Six Nations chance after slimming down 

Jacob Stockdale gearing up to face England on Saturday in the Six Nations. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

SLIMMED-DOWN Ireland wing Jacob Stockdale is preparing to unleash his new-look physique on England after being handed the "bonus" of an unexpected Guinness Six Nations outing.

Stockdale feared he would miss the entire Championship having suffered a problematic knee injury playing for Ulster in early January.

But the fit-again 24-year-old, who used his recovery to shed almost a stone, will have a chance to make up for lost time during Saturday's tournament finale against Eddie Jones' men in Dublin.

"I'm just delighted to be getting an opportunity at all to play in this Six Nations," he said.

"For a while, especially with the injury, it looked like I wasn't going to get any games, so anything in this Six Nations was a bonus. Getting the start is super.

"I had a bit of an ACL strain; I didn't tear it very fortunately, and then a bit of bone bruising and a few other bits of damage.

"We were hoping it would tidy up in a couple of weeks but it didn't. The bone bruising in particular took a long time.

It was a good opportunity for me to slow down, reflect on the year a bit and get my body right.

"I figured, I was 103-104kg at the start of my injury. I'm sitting at 98-99 at the moment and feeling good."

Stockdale - preferred to the misfiring James Lowe - will play on the wing for his country for the first time in more than a year having been utilised at full-back in the autumn.

Ireland have not beaten England since clinching the 2018 Grand Slam at Twickenham, after which Stockdale was named player of the tournament on his Six Nations debut.

The Northern Irishman decided to drop weight due to feeling his sizeable frame was unnecessary for his position and hopes the change can have a positive impact on his form.

"I just had a think about it when I first got injured. I came to the conclusion that my game isn't exactly going to be about running over the top of lads, it's trying to find soft shoulders and going around fellas," he said.

"Even if I was 98-99 kilos, I'd still be heavier and bigger than the majority of back-three players in world rugby.

"It made sense when I thought about it that way to slim down a bit.

"I've not decided how far I'm going to slim down yet. I'll see how far I go but that was the reason anyway."

CHANGES

Head coach Andy Farrell referenced Stockdale's weight loss at his pre-match press conference after making six changes to the team which started last weekend's win over Scotland.

New Zealand-born Lowe had started every Ireland game for which he was fit but has been omitted from Farrell's 23 following defensive lapses during Sunday's 27-24 victory at Murrayfield.

Stockdale, whose recovery was aided by three Guinness PRO14 appearances for his province, empathised with his outgoing team-mate.

"I don't think it's any secret that I've been under a little bit of scrutiny like that before," said Stockdale "It's tough for him.

"In international rugby and especially on the wing, any small mistakes that you make are magnified as opposed to any other position.

"Unfortunately for Lowey there were a few opportunities in the game that didn't go his way. It was one of those ones that if they had gone his way he would have had a pretty good game.

"It's a frustrating place to be and I have definitely been there before."

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