Six Nations title still ‘a realistic goal’ for Irish

Six Nations title still ‘a realistic goal’ for Irish

DUBLIN • Jacob Stockdale insists Ireland can win the Six Nations as they prepare to return to action, even though England are firm favourites to claim the title.

Andy Farrell’s side are fourth in the table, four points behind England and France (both 13 points), but those two teams have just one game remaining in the championship which was put on hold by coronavirus earlier this year.

Ireland host point-less Italy this Saturday in an empty Lansdowne Road but face a far tougher task in Paris a week later against fellow title chasers France.

Ireland, a point behind Scotland who have a game left, can gain a maximum 10 points from their two remaining games but England are heavy favourites, with only a match against Italy to come.

“For us, as a team, realistically we’ve got a Six Nations to finish and we’re never going to not aim for silverware,” said Stockdale, who scored seven tries in 2018 as Ireland romped to the Six Nations Grand Slam.

“Realistically, for us, I think it’s entirely achievable to get 10 points out of the next two games and pick up a trophy at the end of it.

“I think that’s a realistic goal for us, something we’ll definitely aspire to.”

On a personal level, the winger is keen to end a try drought that has extended to seven Tests.

The Ulster star is his own harshest critic but has closed his social media accounts after receiving horrific abuse online.

“For me personally, I’m never going to deal well with disappointment,” said Stockdale, who has scored 16 tries in his 28 Tests.

“That’s part of having a competitive nature. It’s always going to be a disappointment when you haven’t played well.

“For myself personally, it’s about being able to block that out and internalise how I’m feeling about the game and having two or three guys’ opinions that I really trust and leaning on them for that is massive for me.”

Stockdale said the Ireland coaching staff kept in touch during the lockdown as much to check up on players’ mental health as to give them playing tips.

He kept himself busy restoring a 1966 Mustang car he bought on eBay, phoning round for a mental health charity and getting engaged.

He said Ireland’s players were battle hardened after appearing for their provincial sides.

“It has definitely made the transition a bit more seamless, but from a coaching point of view and a cultural point of view, the team and management have done really well to make sure we’re talking things through and understanding each other again.”