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Learning to cope with the ups and downs of the game

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Back-row Robin Copeland in action during squad training

Back-row Robin Copeland in action during squad training

SPORTSFILE

Back-row Robin Copeland in action during squad training

At times his dream move has been plain sailing, but back-row Robin Copeland has had a couple of early setbacks to deal with since he joined Munster.

The 27-year-old arrived on a two-year deal from Cardiff Blues in the summer and has quickly established himself as one of the team's top performers.

After two seasons in Wales the Wexford native couldn't resist the Munster call, and his first Irish cap soon followed.

Playing his third game in three weeks following a niggly knee injury picked up against Ulster in Thomond Park, Copeland finally looked to have found his feet for the province. But injury struck again against Leinster over the Christmas period.

It couldn't have gone much better in that game until disaster struck just before the half-hour mark in that 28-13 win two weeks ago. Now Copeland must await the results of a scan before he knows the extent of the injury to his shoulder.

In a World Cup year it's tough to miss any game time, but it is the sense of the unknown that is so troubling, he says.

"I was just making a tackle and my arm got wedged straight up behind my head. Basically I over-stretched or pinched something - you never want an injury like that," he says.

In just nine Pro12 appearances, the versatile back-row has scored four tries.

He was also used in vital Champions Cup games against Saracens and Clermont and feels more accepted in the province now - it is evident that Anthony Foley sees him as a vital cog.

"It has been a positive six months, I feel I have gelled in well, players have got to know me a bit better and staff have as well," he enthuses.

"I am pretty happy here, it is definitely somewhere I would be looking to stay for the foreseeable future and make the most out of it.

"I want to win things here - my main goals at the moment is to win trophies. I couldn't think of anywhere I would rather be to try and do that.

"It does take a while to settle into a new club and I feel like I have got there now.

"I am starting to hit my stride and starting to put in some better performances and I would be fairly positive moving forward as to being more involved - making a big impact here.

Suited

"I am very happy with how things are at the minute. In Cardiff there was a lot more loose open play which probably suited me, but I can get myself into positions in Munster now where I am making a better impact than I was at Cardiff.

"It is a different style of play and there are different players around me so I am going to play that bit differently as well."

His presence was sorely missed in the Sportsground last weekend as Munster lost 24-16 to Connacht.

His ball carrying ability would have been a help especially as the visitors struggled into a strong wind, but he says the Munster players know they fell short of the required standard in Galway.

"It was a massive battle and in fairness Connacht played exceptionally well and they took their tries very well," he says.

"It was a very tough game, our boys were very tired after it. They felt that they were in the game and a few of the lads said it was just non-stop tackling. They kept coming and coming.

"When the weather is like that in a place like that, that is what you have to expect.

"In fairness they played very well and they are a very good side. A very difficult team to beat especially at home."

That result came of the back of the sensational victory at home to Leinster - a night when everything seemed to go right for Munster.

Copeland believes the feeling around the camp is chalk and cheese from the buzz they experienced in the aftermath of such a precious inter-pro win.

"We were buzzing off that game, of course we were - those are the games that you love most as a supporter," he recalls.

"It didn't disappoint that night in Thomond Park, a packed-out stadium and beating Leinster.

"That was brilliant, it was one of the very few highs of playing rugby. The highs are reasonably rare so have to make the most of them when they do come around."

Next up for Munster are Zebre in the Stadio XXV Aprile and with Copeland set to miss out, his sights are firmly fixed on the subsequent block of Champions Cup games.

With Munster third in Pool 1, an away day with Saracens at Allianz Park and then the final group game at home to Sale Sharks are likely to prove season=defining, while there is also inclusion in the Six Nations squad to be considered.

"I have been involved in every camp since the Six Nations last year and I finally got the chance to come off the bench against Georgia," says Copeland.

"I had a good summer tour with the emerging side and it all added up, so it felt like it didn't happen overnight.

"The emerging tour was a good confidence booster as it was my first international tour. I didn't play any at underage level so to get that experience was great.

"If I miss this weekend then so be it but we have got some big European games coming up and then it's straight into the Six Nations and that is what I want to be targeting - I will be keeping one eye on that really."

Irish Independent