Six Nations: Jacob Stockdale anxiously awaits Ireland selection for Paris opener
Ulster wing Jacob Stockdale is anxiously waiting to see whether he is going to be handed a Six Nations debut against France in Paris on Saturday.
Stockdale, 21, starred in Ireland's November series but Keith Earls looks likely to be handed one of the wing berths after missing the autumn games.
"My position is nowhere near secure," admitted Stockdale on Tuesday.
"Earlsy is a phenomenal player and he's in really lightning form. I'd say he'll be a certain starter."
Jordan Larmour's brilliant recent form for Leinster means he represents an option at wing and full-back for Joe Schmidt while Munster's Andrew Conway and the recalled Fergus McFadden are also in the frame for selection.
Adam Byrne, who earned his first cap on the right wing in the final November game against Argentina, is unavailable because of injury.
Earls missed the autumn wins over South Africa, Fiji and Argentina because of injury as Stockdale scored three tries but Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has pointedly described the Munster wing's form over recent weeks as "super".
Earls and Stockdale left wingers for provinces
Earls, who has 62 caps, has been operating at left wing for Munster in recent weeks - which also happens to be Stockdale's preferred flank.
However, the two wings started together in Tests against the USA and Japan last summer and Stockdale is hoping to team up with the 30-year-old Limerick man once more.
After his sensational two-try display in the final November Test against the Pumas, Stockdale looked nailed on for a starting Six Nations role.
A few murmurings about his defence ability arose amid Ulster's struggles during the Christmas and New Year period but he will hope to have enough credit in the bank to retain Schmidt's confidence.
"Hopefully, Keith will be focusing on the right wing and leave the left to me," the Ulster youngster said.
"He's a brilliant player to play alongside. Especially as a young guy, he wants to impart some of his wisdom on to you which is great, and having the likes of Rob Kearney at full-back was brilliant as well.
"I'm probably best suited to the left wing just because I'm a left-footer so for kicking it makes it a bit easier."
Full-back and back row among selection calls
While Ireland have no injury worries, Schmidt does have a number of other selection calls to make.
Rob Kearney is being tipped to hold off the claims of his young Leinster team-mate Larmour for the number 15 shirt while Dan Leavy and Josh van der Flier appear the main candidates to replace injured flanker Sean O'Brien.
Schmidt also has to choose between Cian Healy and Jack McGrath at loose-head prop while James Ryan could be retained in the second row instead of Devin Toner after starting against the Pumas.
France will be without injured Saracens hooker Christopher Tolofua, who has been ruled out of the Stade de France contest because of a back strain.
Tolofua, capped seven times, was expected to be back-up to captain Guilhem Guirado after Camille Chat was ruled out by flu.
Adrien Pelissie is now expected to be named replacement hooker while new coach Jacques Brunel is being tipped to hand the fly-half duties to the Bordeaux player's 19-year-old club-mate Matthieu Jalibert, who is also uncapped.