Rory Best praises Jacob Stockdale's reaction to online abuse
"Sometimes people forget that there is a human being on the other side of all the abuse."
By Brian Barry
Last Updated: 02/04/19 3:58pm
Rory Best has backed Jacob Stockdale for the Ulster winger's reaction to online abuse after his blunder in Saturday's loss to Leinster.
Stockdale was subject to criticism following his failure to touch the ball down in the try area proved crucial in Ulster's narrow Champions Cup quarter-final loss to Leinster on Saturday.
The young winger took to social media in the aftermath of the defeat to apologise for the error, saying: "Sport can be cruel and sometimes you have to learn your lessons the hard way. To the Ulster fans I just want to say I am sorry, I let you down, the support we had yesterday was truly amazing and you deserve to be looking forward to a European semi-final."
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I’ve had some incredible highs with Ulster rugby, but unfortunately yesterday was a low for me. Sport can be cruel and sometimes you have to learn your lessons the hard way. To the Ulster fans I just want to say I am sorry, I let you down, the support we had yesterday was truly amazing and you deserve to be looking froward to a European semi final.
Best backed his teammate's response to the incident. "Jacob met it head on and he put a statement out and I think people appreciated the fact that he did it," he said.
"Sometimes people forget that there is a human being on the other side of all the abuse and I think his statement on social media showed that human side of it.
"I think when you actually get to the human side of it, it leaves it a lot harder to troll and abuse someone. You remember that that's somebody's son, that's somebody's best friend, that's somebody's brother."
Best was reluctant to criticise the winger for the defeat, given that the 22-year-old had been instrumental in the Ulster side's season, and indeed was impressive throughout the match.
"I thought Jacob was absolutely incredible all game," explained the skipper. "Ultimately, he's a finisher and he knows himself but from what I've seen of Jacob over the last 18 months is, he's very good at trying to be better, coming back as Six Nations Player of the Year and he was great for us because he wanted to be better, he didn't just want to be good for Ireland, he wanted to be good for Ulster.
"He'll use this and he'll bounce back."
Stockdale apologised to Best at full-time, and asked him for permission to speak to the entire team in the changing room.
"He came over to me and apologised," recounted the hooker.
"He said, 'Look, I want to speak in the changing room.'
"I said, 'You don't need to apologise because of the way you played and some of the moments you had in that game.' The other thing is, there are very few wingers who would even have crossed the try line.
"He said, 'I know but I feel I need to.'
"He said something along the lines of a repeat of what he said on social media. It was like a moment in the House of Commons - there was uproar in the changing room. Everyone was trying to say something to back him up.
"For the last 12 months, we base a lot of what we do around how strong collectively we are. Ultimately, this is an example of, 'Let's see how strong it can be. Will we bounce back together?'
"No one would hang a player, especially someone as likeable as Jacob and as good as Jacob."
Best said the young star will bounce back. "Jacob will take a learning from it; whether it's how he changes the way he scores or if he's more aware of his surroundings or what, I don't know, that will be for him to a learning from.
"In terms of try-scoring ability, he would be one of the last people that I would be criticising."