Saturday 21 September 2019

Sammy Arnold: 'It's been a long week but we're all excited by the challenge'


Sammy Arnold, pictured leaving Racing’s Maxime Machenaud for dust. Photo: Sportsfile
Sammy Arnold, pictured leaving Racing’s Maxime Machenaud for dust. Photo: Sportsfile

Sammy Arnold

Tomorrow evening we'll know if we have a Champions Cup final to look forward to, but before that we have a massive challenge ahead of us, and a game that we're all excited about.

Twelve months on from that loss against Racing 92 in the Champions Cup semi-final, we are all very determined to pick up a result tomorrow against Saracens, but to be honest all of our focus this week has just been on being as ready as we can to play our next game of rugby. It turns out it's a pretty big game, but at the same time it's just another game.

I played in Bordeaux last season and losing that match was probably the toughest day of my career so far as a rugby player. It was really tough to be stopped one step short of the final, and I'm sure all of the other guys see it the same way as me.

But if we get too caught up on those low points we will become distracted by the job in hand. Yes, we went back and looked at what went wrong for us in the last couple of years, but we also know that we have done so many positive things in the last 12 months too. I think we're ready to give tomorrow's game our all.

Arnold hopes Dan Goggin will again be on-song against Saracens. Photo: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile
Arnold hopes Dan Goggin will again be on-song against Saracens. Photo: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile

We all know what jobs we have been given for the weekend and all will be revealed when the team is announced later this afternoon.


The pleasing thing from my point of view is that I've done everything possible to get back in contention since I've returned from my injury. We've all been doing our best to be ready ourselves, but we've been really focused on getting everyone ready too.

I got my first taste of game-time again when I was brought on off the bench against Cardiff Blues at Irish Independent Park and I was delighted to get a try so quickly. JJ Hanrahan made a great break and some great hands from the boys gave me an easy job to finish in the corner. It's always good to score, but when it's in a comeback game you get a huge buzz off it.

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Last week I was involved over in Treviso and the chance to start a game was brilliant.

It was a real tough game, they're such a physical team and in the early stages especially, they were pretty hard to nail down.

They took the lead with a penalty and a converted try and were 10-0 ahead at that stage, but Rhys got a great try for us a few minutes later, which was a huge score. That really settled the nerves for us.

I played alongside Dan Goggin in the centre last week and he had a real good game. He finished off the second try, which put us ahead and despite shipping another try before half-time, we were confident that we had figured them out at that point.

Going over to Italy we knew we had to win to keep our hopes of top spot alive, so to leave with a bonus-point win was a great return. There was nothing easy about it and after one or two tricky moments the feeling was that we defended well and took the chances that came our way. The win put us into first place, but Glasgow's win over Leinster meant we were back down to second the next day. That will go to the wire and we have a huge game to come there against Connacht.

But all week the PRO14 has been parked and our minds have been firmly on the Champions Cup semi with Saracens. We haven't looked back at that semi-final two years ago in too much depth in the last few days other than to compare how Saracens have worked in defence and attack since then.

No doubt they were an excellent side two seasons ago and with seven wins to their name in the competition this year and their impressive stats, nothing has changed since then. Right across their team they are packed with quality players, but because of my position I'd always keep an eye on any possible opponents.

Against Glasgow, in their quarter-final, they lined up with Brad Barritt and Alex Lozowski in the 12 and 13 shirts and if it's the same tomorrow they will be quality opponents. They are both experienced players and have had plenty of success in their careers, so we will have to be at our best to silence them.

In that same game they didn't have Owen Farrell in the side and Alex Goode played at 10 for them, but having Farrell back again adds another string to their bow. But I'm sure they are looking at our squad too thinking that we have some outstanding talent at our disposal.


With such a big game to look forward to it can be hard going all week waiting for it to arrive, but today is all about getting set up in our base in Coventry, having the captain's run and shaking off stiff legs from the week's work.

There is certainly plenty of excitement ahead of this game, and the important thing is that we try our best to treat it as any other game. It's always really tough to do that, but the closer that kick-off comes the easier it is to put your game-face on.

But it boils down to the 80 minutes we have to deliver a performance, and whatever happens at the full-time whistle we'll have no regrets as long as we deliver the performance we know we are capable of.

We've heard that there is a huge band of Munster supporters on their way to England to support us tomorrow no different to the Edinburgh quarter-final weekend. They have been a huge help to us over the years and already this season, so hopefully we can make sure they have another huge day to start planning in the next few days.


Champions Cup semi-finals


Saracens v Munster, Ricoh Arena, 3.0, BT Sport 2


Leinster v Toulouse, Aviva Stadium, 3.15, Virgin Media 1/ Channel 4/ BT Sport 2

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