Jacob Stockdale continues to pay back Joe Schmidt for keeping faith in him after he scored his sixth international try in six appearances for Ireland.
The 21-year-old scored a brace as Ireland thumped Italy 56-19 in the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, and moved top of the NatWest 6 Nations table on points difference from England.
Robbie Henshaw also scored a brace - before going off with a serious arm injury which could rule him out for the remainder of the campaign - while Bundee Aki, Conor Murray, Keith Earls and captain Rory Best also crossed as Ireland cruised to a comfortable victory.
The championship takes a break for a week before Ireland entertain Wales on Saturday, February 24 and Stockdale will be hoping he will still be to the forefront of Schmidt’s mind when it comes to the starting line-up in Dublin.
Stockdale made his debut for Ireland during last year’s Summer Tour of USA and Japan, where he made two appearances.
He was handed his first home start against South Africa and played again against Argentina during the Guinness Test series last November.
Schmidt gave him a further boost, in spite of an indifferent display from the youngster for Ulster against Leinster, by retaining him in the number 11 jersey for the opening and his debut Six Nations game in Paris.
“It’s a big confidence booster, the only way that you get better at playing international rugby is by playing international rugby, so for him to put that faith in me has been really great,” enthused Stockdale.
“I’d say the biggest learning has been how tough it is, the last 10 minutes. My lungs were really starting to go, you don’t understand how difficult it is until you’ve played in it, and that’s something I’ve learned.”
“You learn things with every game you play, and there will be things that I take away from this that I have to work on,” he added.
Stockdale is happy to be scoring tries - even if he had to wait for the second half against Italy to finally get his opportunities - backing himself strongly for his second score.
“I just feel like the ball is popping up in the right place for me at the moment and that was pretty exciting for me as a winger.
“Playing in Dublin is incredible. That was the third time that I’ve done it now, and the atmosphere here is phenomenal, especially for a young guy like myself, I haven’t really experienced anything like that before, and I really, really enjoyed it.”
Stockdale is looking forward to the break and may call into his old school, Wallace High School, this weekend when they play a Schools’ Cup quarter-final against RS Armagh.