Six Nations Miscellany: Jacob takes stock and decides to shed a few kilos
Conan back under starter’s orders . . . Daly the ‘world-class’ centre . . . Stats don’t stack up
Jacob Stockdale taking part in the Ireland captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium on Friday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
In rugby bigger is better. Right? Not for Jacob Stockdale who has moved in the other direction after working things out when he was injured. Stockdale decided to become lighter.
“I came to the conclusion that my game isn’t exactly going to be about running over the top of lads,” said the Irish winger. “It’s trying to find soft shoulders and going round fellas. I figured, I was 103, 104kg at the start of my injury. 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’m sitting at 98, 99 at the moment and feeling good. I’ll see how far I go but that was the reason anyway.”
Today will be the judge of that as he faces England’s Anthony Watson, no slouch himself.
“I found it difficult to convince S&C coaches and nutritionists that I wanted to get smaller,” added Stockdale. “If it didn’t go well and I was finding it tough, I can always put it back on. But so far it seems to be going well.”
Conan back under starter’s orders
One of the most thrilled players in today’s starting team is likely to be the Irish backrow Jack Conan. The Bray-born number eight was selected for the squad a few weeks ago for Ireland’s game against Italy. The question on people’s lips then was where the heck has Conan been all this time?
His appearance in an Irish shirt for the match against Italy was his first in the green jersey since the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Capped 19 times, Conan has played twice so far in this year Six Nations Championship, both times off the bench for a total of just 34 minutes. His international career stretches as far back as the 2015-16 season when he played in one Test match. So after 17 minutes against Italy and 16 minutes against Scotland, a start and extended run out against England today seems like a call that was well overdue
Daly update, he’s a ‘world-class’ centre
Okay, so Eddie Jones is one of those marmite coaches, a little bit like Warren Gatland actually. You either love him or loath him, although, in Jones’s case the loathing probably far outweighs the loving.
This week he waded in on behalf of Elliot Daly and has called him a “world-class” player. Daly, as we recall, was replaced at fullback last time out by Max Malins after a string of shaky performances. On this occasion, however, he is picked at outside centre as cover for calf-injury victim Henry Slade. “He’s coming back into his best form and he’s got a great opportunity in his preferred position,” said Jones. Wonder why he hasn’t played there for over four years then. Keep them thinking.
Top of the charts doesn’t make you a hit
Two players Andy Farrell has left out of his starting team to face England today come up on top of the leading players for passes made and metres made. Dropped James Lowe leads Italy’s Monty Ioane and England’s Elliot Daly for metres gained. Lowe tops the charts at 433, ahead of Ioane on 361 and Daly on 358.
Jamison Gibson-Park leads Italy’s Stephen Varney and Scotland’s Ali Price with passes made. His 256 so far to Varney’s 241 puts him on top of the table. Gibson-Park also comes in joint second with try assists with two to his name, Antoine Dupont leading the group with four. CJ Stander has most carries with 64 and Tadhg Beirne most turnovers with seven.
Number of the day: 261
It has to be this number today. The silver lining for Devin Toner. Had the lock been picked to play a role in today’s match against England in the Aviva Stadium, he would not have equalled the record originally set by Gordon D’Arcy for record appearances with Leinster.
Quote of the day
“We get a chance to put our best performance out there for 80 minutes, which is something that we haven’t quite achieved yet.” – Irish coach Andy Farrell agreeing with what most Irish fans have been thinking over the last four Six Nations matches. Fireworks today then?