Tuesday 25 September 2018

'I wouldn't change anything about my time here'

The Big Interview: Robin Copeland

Robin Copeland hopes to leave Munster on a high. Photo: Sportsfile
Robin Copeland hopes to leave Munster on a high. Photo: Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Last week Connacht Rugby announced that they had snapped up Robin Copeland to fill the massive void left behind by veteran captain and No 8 John Muldoon next season, and they could have found the perfect fit.

But the former Cardiff Blues back row will miss Limerick, Munster Rugby and the team-mates, coaches and backroom team that all helped him gain his first cap for his country against Georgia in November 2016.

Copeland has played 63 times for Munster since his arrival from Cardiff in 2014, and although injury often quenched his hopes of challenging CJ Stander for the No 8 jersey on a regular basis in the big European games, he has still grown as a player.

"Obviously injuries made a big difference at crucial times. But I never put that blame on anything," says Copeland.

"It was unfortunate but I always used that time as a time to improve. To work on things in the rest of my game if I could, to get my body in as good a place as possible. But I definitely think I am a better player now than when I got here four years ago.

"That's due to the players around me, the environment, the medical staff, the depth of the analysis that we do here.

"What's expected of you here has definitely made me a better, more rounded player. Injuries were unfortunate but there is a lot more to it than that. I don't have any regrets and wouldn't change anything."

The 30-year-old Wexford native was on the comeback trail from a shoulder injury at the start of the season but he has made nine starts and 16 appearances overall for the province this term.

This is his fourth season in red but he seeks new horizons and a chance to become a first team regular under head coach Kieran Keane at the Sportsground in 2018-'19.

"I have moved clubs before. It's always tough to leave. The club has served me well," says Copeland.

"I have really enjoyed my time here. But you have to take emotion out of it and do what's best for your career.

"I will miss Munster. It's one of the best clubs in the world. It's been an absolute privilege to play here.

"I got to play with some great players. Really got to know a great bunch of lads. I will miss it big time.

"The game against the Maori All Blacks was probably the highlight. That was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of game. Playing Champions Cup rugby and things like that were great too.

"I have a lot of great memories but the Maori game would probably be the stand-out one."

With British & Irish Lion Stander away on international duty during Ireland's successful Six Nations campaign, Copeland has been a major asset for Munster.

Versatility His versatility allows him to operate in the second-row and back-row, and that could be vital in the next few weeks with some big matches around the corner.

Munster host Toulon at Thomond Park on March 31 in the Champions Cup quarter-final and Copeland is desperate to be involved.

"Making sure I am in contention for the Toulon game is a big focus of mine," adds Copeland.

"That the coaches and players know that if I am involved or called upon I can do a job and the team will be better for it. That's all I have tried to focus on.

"I am happy in one sense. But lots of parts of my game, I need to keep working on. I have had good games, but I haven't had great game.

"But if I work hard and if I am constantly working on my game and not taking a moment off. I need to keep working to have big impacts on games.

"I haven't got a lot of time here and when the lads are away it gives me an opportunity.

"If anything happens and I am called upon I know I will be ready to go. That's all I am focused on."

If Munster beat the French Top 14 giants they are back into the final four of Europe for the second year in a row, and the expectation will increase again.

A buoyant international contingent are still to return to the fold and it could give them a timely boost at this juncture.

"Hopefully we can win two trophies. That's the goal now," says Copeland.

"I came here to try and win trophies and represent Ireland if I could. I represented Ireland on one occasion.

"Injury prevented me from progressing where I wanted to with that. But we still have a great chance to win two trophies.

"Lads are really focusing in on that now. Thinking about the last few games to really get that job done. It's exciting and everyone is really looking forward to it."

Off the field, Copeland uses his sales and marketing prowess where he is an intern at Shadowman Sports at UL.

Back on the park he wants to leave Munster on a high but there is still plenty of work to do before the summer break rolls around.

He scored seven tries in 48 appearances for Cardiff Blues over two seasons. And Copeland would desperately love to make a telling impact and help Munster win their first piece of silverware since they were crowned league champions in 2011.

"We are getting to the business end of the season now. That is the main focus at the minute," adds Copeland.

"I have something to look forward to at the end of it as well. Moving away, a whole new challenge and a new club.

"But I am delighted with how things are at the minute."

Irish Independent

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