Tommy Bowe can empathise with Jacob Stockdale over criticism
Former Ireland player says a player like Cheslin Kolbe can cause big problems
Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring the opening try during the friendly win over Wales in Cardiff. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Tommy Bowe understood how Jacob Stockdale felt after Ireland’s thumping in Twickenham. He had worn that shirt literally and metaphorically at one stage in a 69-cap, 30-try playing career with the national side.
Stockdale drew a barrage of criticism from some quarters for the manner in which he defended for three of England’s tries. He copped the majority of the flak even though there were others who were arguably more culpable for the systemic failure that day.
Bowe had suffered in a similar vein at the fledgling stage of his international career but didn’t cope as well as he feels Stockdale has in the aftermath.
There is no doubt that the criticism resonated with the young Ulster and Ireland left wing, but he responded with a brace of tries in the victory over Wales at the Principality stadium, taking his tally to a phenomenal 16 in 21 tests.
Stockdale now lies joint 10th alongside Ronan O’Gara (128 tests) in the overall Ireland try-scorers listing.
Bowe, who was speaking at the launch of Eir Sports Rugby World Cup coverage, said: “Jacob is still young, people are criticising him, and he took a bit of a bashing after that England match.
“Looking back to when I was that age I didn’t respond well to criticism, but he seemed to be able to put it behind him and it showed how much it meant to him to score those tries [in Cardiff]. He was aware of it [criticism]. Having him in good form going into the World Cup is very important for Ireland. I heard someone mention that Jacob was in a drought which is laughable given how many tries he has scored.”
He pointed out that the three tries “weren’t his [Stockdale’s] fault”, and that the “people inside him didn’t make it easy but when you are in a blitz defence that Andy Farrell wants you can’t have indecision. That was the area in which maybe he was at fault.
“If you are going to go, you go 100 per cent. If you go 100 per cent and don’t question yourself a lot of the time it will work out. I think the problem was he went to go, stopped for a second and went to go again; it’s that indecision, that split second.
“You watch South Africa the way they defend at the minute. They are off the line hard, get into faces and ask questions later. It’s literally just about shutting the door, and if a team can get round that fair play to them.”
When asked what wingers he is looking forward to watching in Japan, Bowe singles out Stockdale, Fijian-born French wing Alivereti Raka, Damien Penaud, Argentine Santiago Cordero and Springbok duo Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe.
So of those who would he least like to face? The answer is the smart-stepping small guy, Kolbe.
He elaborated: “I hated playing Shane Williams because if you come up against [Rieko] Ioane or in my era, a [Sitiveni] Sivivatu or a [Joe] Rokocoko, they’d be electrically quick and powerful. They’d have a nice step, a good step, but generally when they’re moving it would be a small step.
“Whereas with Shane he had an incredible ability to be running at 90 per cent, almost sidestep to the right or left five metres, and still be able to keep going at speed. You always had to drift defend him in twos. When you come up hard on a guy like that, you’d never lay a finger on him; I used to hate defending small guys with that step.
“When you see Cordero and Kolbe, they’re small guys in the Shane Williams mould, and going into a World Cup it’s important to see players like that; it’s not just all going to be these power-based Billy Vunipolas running over people. I think having players with that bit of flair and people who can create something out of nothing will be very exciting.”
Bowe the players is now Bowe the presenter, and he’ll have to show some of the stamina of his playing days. “I will be fronting nearly 40 matches over 42 days, so it is going to be a crazy schedule. It’s so exciting.”