The Ulster winger scored two of Ulster’s six tries in a bonus point victory in Parma and is hoping he can build on that momentum against the Bulls at Kingspan Stadium tomorrow evening (5pm).
Stockdale won his 100th Ulster cap in last season’s league quarter-final against Connacht but there was little to celebrate for the winger or his teammates. Dan McFarland’s side were seeded second and would have had home advantage all the way to the final, but they were eliminated by the second lowest side in the playoff rankings.
Stockdale then made Andy Farrell’s World Cup training squad but missed out on the final cut.
“It was obviously really disappointing and knowing now you would have had a home semi and final, that makes it even tougher,” said Stockdale on the Connacht defeat. “I think for us as a playing group we have to make sure that we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves and maybe – and I’m not saying it is – but there is a possibility of what happened in that quarter-final [that we] thought we’d beat Connacht, go on to the semi and really get into the work.
“In fairness to Connacht they came and made a mess of our breakdown, they were really physical and played really well and we didn’t respond to that.
“It is obviously just really disappointing for us as a playing group because of the amount of hard work that we put in the entire season, to finish second in the league, to have the home quarter-final and subsequently that home semi and final,” he added. “Sometimes another team comes along and messes up your plans and that is exactly what Connacht did, and fair play to them to a certain degree.
“I think if we are in the same position this season, we have to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes.”
For a 17th consecutive season Ulster were left empty-handed but Stockdale doesn’t feel there is too much that Ireland can learn from last season as a whole.
“I think because there are so many games between the end of each season – there is going to be about 25 games between now and then – I don’t think there is massive learning you can take from them,” he said.
“[I] think you have to take it as an individual game and go ‘right, what should we have done differently in that specific moment’.
“In terms of what can you learn for an entire season there is probably not an awful lot there. I suppose it is maybe experience for the younger lads that haven’t been there before – the more knockout games that they are in the more experience they are going to gain and ultimately the better decisions they are going to make when they are under that pressure.”
While obviously disappointed not to be part of Ireland’s 33-man World Cup squad, Stockdale admitted if he was in Andy Farrell’s shoes, he wouldn’t have picked himself.
“The one thing I always say about Faz (Farrell) – and it is a compliment to him – is he’ll always be honest, whether it is being a wee bit brutal or whether he is putting an arm around you,” he said. “He is a very honest coach and that is something that I appreciate massively as a player.”