Sammy Arnold: 'My Ireland debut was a dream, but I've a fight on my hands now'
It's been a bit of a whirlwind being involved with Ireland for the last four weeks, but to finish off the camp with my first international cap was a huge honour.
But we were back to Munster duty straight away this week as we get ready to face Edinburgh at Irish Independent Park tonight, in what promises to be a really tough battle.
Pulling on that green shirt for a senior international was absolutely amazing - it's something I've worked really hard to achieve, so I was absolutely delighted on a personal level.
Even if you don't make the cut for a match, everyone works so hard to get the matchday 23 ready for each game. And it's not as if you're told in week one that you'll be playing the final game or anything like that.
Because of the squad that we have in Ireland at the moment and the talent in there, you have to be patient and have to wait for your chance, but I was just delighted to get mine against the USA.
I was pretty nervous waiting for my time to come and hoping that it would but to finally run on at the Aviva Stadium made the wait worthwhile.
After the injury I picked up against Glasgow I missed the Cheetahs game in South Africa, and I was a little worried that I was going to miss out on the November Series as a result. Thankfully the symptoms managed to clear up fully after about ten days so I was okay to join up with the squad.
In the Ireland camp you learn so much from the players around you all of the time. All along my ambition is to improve my game, and because there are so many talented players and coaches up there with a huge bank of knowledge, you try and pick their brain as much as you can.
Overall I was delighted with how things went over the month. It was great to be part of what the squad achieved. Throughout it we always talk about it being a 42-man effort, it was never just about the 23 in the matchday squad. Players pride themselves on what they contribute during the week and anything they can do to help the whole team win is done. I played my part in the first three games, but I was absolutely over the moon to earn my cap at the end of it.
The first few days of each week is very much about knowing your detail inside out. I put a lot of pressure on myself to know that, so when I go out on the pitch I'm at ease, can relax and play naturally.
Obviously the New Zealand game was a huge moment for all of us, but hearing that I was involved in the 23 for the USA game was huge for me. I knew there was no guarantee that I would get on the pitch so I tried to fear the worst, but expect the best. I knew that if I got on I'd have to be ready.
Afterwards at the team meal all the debutants have to sing a song before they're presented with their first cap. I wouldn't be the best singer but I belted out The Wild Rover and a few people joined in to help me, which made it a bit easier. I had my mum, my stepdad, my sister, her boyfriend and my cousin there so it was great to share the moment with them. I'll probably get the jersey and the cap framed, which will be a nice memento to have.
After all those highs, it was brilliant to join back up with the Munster squad this week. And there is no let-up in the pressure either, such has been their form while we were away. Then you have Chris, Jaco and Tyler coming back in the centres, while Dan Goggin isn't too far away either.
The way the boys have been playing has been amazing, so I'm going to have to take it day by day, work hard and try to be ready to play.
Obviously I didn't get to see the Munster game live at the weekend, but I've watched it back - it looked like a really tough game in Italy. Watching Fineen Wycherley and Gavin Coombes they really impressed in such a big game for them. It was a massive game for Ronan, Chris, Conor and Jaco too. Those guys have worked incredibly hard to get back from injury and I was delighted to see them back on the pitch.
Sometimes it can be tough to watch your team playing when you're away or injured. You know with the quality that we have, whoever starts in your jersey is going to give his best. But on the other hand, if the team is winning and going well in Europe and the PRO14 we're all happy. Just look at Kevin O'Byrne, he has picked up two man of the match awards in the last two matches and has taken his chance.
I always say to myself that you're only as good as your last game and you have to do it every day or else you plateau, but all across the team we're all fighting for a place. We want to win trophies and to get there we need to have a top quality squad. The more competition, the merrier - that's what makes us better I think!
Even though the Ireland squad members were only away for a few weeks we still had a lot of catching up to do. It has been a busy week for everyone, but it's great to be back in familiar surrounds again too.
We'll all be in Cork tonight for the Edinburgh game and we're expecting a real tough, physical challenge. This is a very tight conference now too - there's a lot of competition in the league and I don't think it gets the credit that it deserves. Glasgow are eight points above us now so we have catching up to do if we want to finish the season the way we want to. There is no room for slip ups in this competition.
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