Jacob Stockdale had to survive Joe Schmidt’s training ground baptism of fire to become a Test match try machine, according to Ireland captain Rory Best.
Ulster wing Stockdale has racked up 10 tries in just eight Tests, with his six tries in this year’s NatWest 6 Nations an Ireland record.
The 21-year-old could equal the all-time single-season Six Nations scoring record with two tries as 2018 champions Ireland chase the Grand Slam against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Best has taken 110 caps to muster nine Ireland tries, and jokingly lamented being overtaken by his young Ulster team-mate Stockdale in double-quick time.
“It’s hugely frustrating that he’s already passed the number of tries I’ve scored - and I can’t see me getting back past him again!” joked Best, of Stockdale’s remarkable Test match scoring record.
“He’s been really good, and it’s been talked a lot about his hunger, and his want to learn and get better.
“Joe (Schmidt) is a really brilliant coach, and he can be a tough taskmaster at times.
“He asks a lot of you and puts you under a lot of pressure in training.
“There are players, and some very good players, who just can’t cope with that.
“And to be fair to Jacob, he’s not the finished article, far from it, but he is wanting to get better, he is improving.
“And his record as a finisher speaks for itself. It’s a phenomenal record.
“To do what he has is incredible, but I’d be the first to give credit for that to the rest of the backline inside him, and Rob Kearney behind him, helping him, too.
“You’ve got Keith Earls and Kearney out there keeping him right positionally, and those are the small learnings that he’s lapping up all the time.”
Only Best and Rob Kearney remain from Ireland’s last Grand Slam, but the 35-year-old admitted leading the team to a clean sweep as captain would represent an entirely different proposition from that 2009 triumph.
“To get the opportunity to captain your province, your country, the Lions; that’s special,” said Best.
“But for me, there would be nothing more special than the opportunity to lift the trophy as captain of Ireland, and it’s something growing up I didn’t get to witness very often.
“To have been part of three teams to have won silverware now, and now to be captain, it will be really, really special.
“It’s special for me, all my family and close friends. That proposition really excites you, but you’ve got to bring it back to how do we get there.
“And that’s about making sure we prepare but it’s ultimately about making sure we perform.”
Meanwhile, Best insisted he will not use Eddie Jones’ “scummy Irish” comments as part of his team talk ahead of today’s game.
England boss Jones has apologised twice this week after a video surfaced on Wednesday, where he criticised Joe Schmidt’s team and called Wales a “little s*** place”.
The 110-cap hooker is adamant Jones’ barbs towards Ireland remain a mere “sideshow”.
Asked if he would use Jones’ comments in his team talk Best said: “No, no. Look it’s not something we’re focusing on.
“It’ll be a massive game tomorrow, we’re not worried about those sorts of things.
“A lot of players and people have done those private Q and As and I’m sure he didn’t mean it to be offensive towards Ireland or Irish rugby.
“So if we start to get distracted with a sideshow like that and bits and pieces, it takes us away from what is important to us.
“And what is important to us is the 80 minutes of rugby in front of us,” Best added.