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Copeland's move to Munster another step in right direction


ROBIN COPELAND has known what it feels like to be an outsider long before he exited Leinster for the rugby outpost that is Plymouth Albion RFC in the lower reaches of the English Championship four years ago.

It all began by walking through the front doors to Kilkenny College as a kid from Wexford. Ouch! There are easier ways to get your teenage kicks.

This paled into insignificance beside the scenic route Copeland took from leaving the Leinster Academy in the summer of 2010 for Plymouth.

It wasn't exactly a dream come true: "Well when I first moved to Plymouth, I was living in a tiny, shi**y apartment attached to the club that had mushrooms growing in the bathroom.

"It was freezing cold, damp, horrible. My contract was so bad I got a job behind the bar in the golf club as well to try and pay for it.

"Like, I was skint. But, I was playing rugby and I was happy enough. I had been a student for the last four years and I was still living a student life, nothing really had changed dramatically.

"So I'm not really one to complain anyway, but, yeah, looking back that was the lowest point."

From base camp to the summit of the game, it has been four gruelling years where he has had to dominate at every turn to move up the ladder until he got to Camp Ireland at Carton House.

"I moved to the UK four years ago with a dream of getting into a situation like this. I always looked at stepping stones," he said.

He graduated from one season at Plymouth (2010-2011) to another at Rotherham (2011-2012) where former Belfast Harlequins coach Andre Bester built up his confidence.

"The contract at Rotherham was a little bit better and I kind of knew what I was at a bit more," he said.

"In fairness to the coach Andre Bester, he gave me a lot of opportunity to just play and, maybe, nurtured me a bit in the sense that he kind of built certain things around me.



"That gave me a lot of confidence in what I had to do. I think that season was a big turning point. You know, if that didn't go well I probably would have been back home.

"Nothing happens in a straight line," he said. "There are always setbacks. Winning never happens in a straight line. Your goals never happen in a straight line. It is always up and down.

"If I didn't believe in myself I wouldn't be here. I always felt like I had the ability to play at this level. If I didn't feel like I was ready I knew I had the capability to change those things and improve.

"There have been moments where I doubted myself. Playing at Rotherham, I had a good season there and I was hoping to get picked up by an Irish province.

"If that didn't happen, a PRO12 club where I could play against those players and put myself up for selection such as this."

And so Cardiff Blues came calling in 2012. He is in the middle of his second season there and has developed further into their go-to ball carrier.

How the world turns. Copeland was willing to leave Leinster to become a better player and a more mature man, coming back home to sign a two-year deal with arch-rivals Munster, starting this summer.

"Thankfully, it's worked out that way. As soon as I had the opportunity to get back home, it was a pretty simple decision in the end."