Six Nations 2021: Slimmed-down Jacob Stockdale ready for Ireland return

Jacob Stockdale
Stockdale missed Ireland's first four Six Nations games
Guinness Six Nations 2021 - Ireland v England
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday 20 March Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Listen to commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Ulster; live text commentary and post-match video highlights on the BBC Sport website and app.

Jacob Stockdale says he used his time on the sidelines to drop almost a stone in weight as he sought to optimise his body for a return to action.

The Ulster man will make his first appearance of this season's Six Nations against England on Saturday.

Stockdale, 24, has played three times for his province since returning from a knee injury suffered in early January.

"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.

"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."

"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."

'Mistakes are magnified on the wing'

Stockdale's international return sees him revert to the left wing, where he exclusively played during his first three years of involvement with the senior side before being moved to full-back in last year's autumn matches.

Hugo Keenan is now the clear first choice at full-back, which may see Stockdale return to the wing more permanently having played the majority of his games since rugby's return last August at full-back.

He replaces James Lowe on Saturday, with the New Zealand-born Leinster wing dropping out of Ireland's matchday squad after a disappointing showing against Scotland during which he made two costly defensive errors.

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

"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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