Wednesday 13 November 2019

Missing out on Ireland was tough but I'm excited by the challenge

 

Joey Carbery, luckily, had his shooting boots on last weekend. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Joey Carbery, luckily, had his shooting boots on last weekend. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

PLAYER’S DIARY: Sammy Arnold

Last weekend was a game I'd love to have been involved in, but being with the rest of the boys in the stand, it was a real nerve-racking experience for all of us.

It was one hell of a battle and fair play to Exeter, they really put it up to us but thankfully Joey Carbery had his shooting boots on and he nailed that late penalty.

I can't remember a game with two such tight defences on show. The scoring chances were minimal, and even their try was one we probably could have avoided.

Conor Murray came closest to scoring a try for us but by and large we cancelled each other out.

Conor Murray came close but Munster failed to score a try. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Conor Murray came close but Munster failed to score a try. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Maybe they will look back and wonder 'what if' they had kicked a couple of their penalties in the first half, but in the end we were pretty happy to chip away and kick our three-pointers. Really, I think that was the difference in the end.

It would have been so tough to lose that game, and it would have been even worse to be knocked out of the Champions Cup, but thankfully we have a quarter-final to look forward to in a couple of months' time.

Funny

It's funny, the game over in Gloucester was so different where there seemed to be a chance every five minutes but it goes to show, you have to be able to win pretty and ugly in this competition.

I saw after the game that this was Munster's 18th time being in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup and that is a record to be proud of.

Since I came here for the 2016-2017 season we've made it to two semi-finals in Europe but we came unstuck against Saracens and Racing 92 in the semi-finals on both occasions.

We're eager to get back to that stage at least this season, but we have one hell of a test in the last eight first.

The last weekend in March seems like ages away but by the time the Six Nations is over all focus will be back on preparing for that game. The time will fly. Facing Edinburgh in that game will be a really tough challenge for us.

Murrayfield is a great place to play, but I'm sure it will be wedged for that game and that will pose a different test than usual when we play there.

Edinburgh are a side that look to have improved a lot this season, and the last time both teams were at full strength against each other, it was a massive battle in the league quarter-final last season.

It'll be a huge game and we can't wait for it.

By Monday afternoon we had done our review on the Exeter game and all the focus was on tomorrow's game against Dragons.

Tuesday we were back on the field again as we ran through a lot of what we plan to do this weekend, and as well as a gym session I did a bit of homework on the Dragons.

Getting together again on Monday morning, it was an interesting team room for that meeting, with 10 or 11 of the squad away with Ireland, but you could see the squad is really keen to take their chance in the coming weeks.

Everyone is delighted when they get named in the 23 for a game and you really don't want to let any chance to impress go unclaimed.

Obviously I'd love to have gotten the call-up for the Six Nations after being involved during the November games, but all I can do now is focus on getting as much game time as I can for Munster and delivering when I can.

I really hope the boys go well in the next few weeks for Ireland. England first up is one we are all looking forward to, but the away games in Scotland and Wales will be brilliant occasions too.

It's such a talented squad and if I get the call again down the line I'll be ready to step up.

But for now it's all about the PRO14 and switching focus back to that and our away trip to Newport.

They are not in our conference so we only play them once a season now, and we got past them at Irish Independent Park in that game last season.

That game in Cork was one of my best memories in the Munster shirt and I ended up with two tries to my name in the end.

They were my first two tries for Munster and it was also my first game of the season, so that game will stick in the memory for a while.

I think it might have been Chris Cloete's debut and Kevin O'Byrne's first Munster try that day too, so there are plenty of us with good memories of that fixture.

I suspect we'll be given a far tougher test this time round though.

Often when you see a new coach go into a team there is a bit of a lift around the place and I'm sure it's no different with Dragons and Ceri Jones either.

Over Christmas they have shown some real form with a win over Ospreys and two tight games against Cardiff and Scarlets, so this will be a real challenge for us.

I think it's fair to say we can ignore their loss to Clermont as a guide, because it's no shame in losing to a side like them, so we know what awaits us this weekend.

Everyone is buzzing after the recent run of results in the camp, but seeing guys like James Hart, Jack O'Donoghue and Rhys Marshall shaking off their injuries is a great lift for us all too.

We'll all have a part to play in the next few weeks and the aim is to start it off with a win this weekend.

Irish Independent

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