Friday 23 August 2019

Sammy Arnold: 'We have no fear of the challenge that awaits us at the RDS'


Darren Sweetnam has been on song for Munster of late. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Darren Sweetnam has been on song for Munster of late. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Sammy Arnold - Player's Diary

You could sense the giddiness in the squad ramping up as this week progressed.

When you have an inter-pro against Leinster coming up with so much weighing on it, it's inevitable that the boys are chomping at the bit to get stuck in.

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Training has gone brilliantly this week. We were all off for most of last week as we recovered from the win over Benetton but when we got back in on Monday you could tell there was a big game ahead.

It was probably a good thing that we had a few days off last week. Don't get me wrong, we'd love to have been playing in a Champions Cup final against Leinster - imagine the occasion that would have been - but once we lost out to Saracens, all of our eggs were in the PRO14 basket.

There was the news about Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones leaving the province to digest too last week and we were all pretty surprised to hear that.

They are two excellent coaches and I certainly wish them all the best in whatever lies ahead for them.

More than ever we want to win tomorrow and give them the chance to say goodbye with a PRO14 final.


It’s been a disappointing to see Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery announce their departure. Photo: SPORTSFILE
It’s been a disappointing to see Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery announce their departure. Photo: SPORTSFILE

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We were disappointed in how we played in the Benetton game at Thomond Park, but the bottom line is that we won.

It was knock-out rugby and this time next season no one will remember how we played, only that we progressed to the last four.

But when you don't play to your ability as a squad it is important to review it and see what went wrong.

The first quarter was key in my opinion. We played really well up as far as their 22, but every chance that came our way, for one reason or another, we couldn't convert. To only have a three-point lead by that stage was frustrating.

They caught us with a bit of a sucker-punch with the try just before half-time, but once the break came I thought we got our heads screwed on a bit more.

When you are not on the field for those championship minutes it is really tough - you can shout all the encouragement you want, but you can feel a bit helpless.

Thankfully the boys did the job in the end and JJ Hanrahan came up with a couple of massive plays to get us over the line.

We've definitely highlighted two or three things that we can improve on from that game and hopefully we can implement them tomorrow.

We've all been told our roles for the weekend, but as we've seen in recent weeks everyone has to be on their toes for late drop-outs from the squad if you're not involved.

Darren Sweetnam has done that brilliantly in the last few weeks, and sometimes getting short notice is the best way to approach a game as it doesn't give you time to overthink the role.

I'm happy with how I've done in the last month or so and on a personal note training has gone really well this week.

I felt I've made a real impact when I've been given my chance - it's such a pity that my run-in to the season was interrupted with that injury.

It's almost 12 months to the day since we played Leinster at the RDS in the PRO14 semi-final and what a tight game that was.

I played at 13 and I thought we played really well as a team and were very unlucky not to come away with a memorable win.

The RDS is always a tough place to play for visiting teams and Leinster's record there is very impressive, but after the performances we delivered against them at the Aviva Stadium and at Thomond Park over Christmas, we have no fear of the challenge.

Leinster are a top, top side. We all saw the challenge they put to Saracens last weekend and arguably that is a game they could have won if they had taken their chances.

They are very strong in the pack, their set-piece operates really efficiently, and in the backs they have some of the world's best finishers.

Twelve months ago, Joey Carbery played at full-back for Leinster and he was very impressive.

Thankfully he'll be wearing a red shirt this time. It's great to have himself and Earlsy back fit and tearing it up at training. Keith is a massive influence on the squad, while Joey's talents are there for everyone to see.

Leinster were in the same situation last season, facing us in the PRO14 semi-final the week after they had played in the Champions Cup final, but the only difference is they were lifted by being European champions 12 months ago.


Hopefully that will have an effect, but on the other hand it could mean they come into the game with a bit of a point to prove to everyone.

Whether we win or lose, this will be my final player diary of the season and looking back over the last eight months or so, it has been a busy time in the province.

But our aim all along was to win some silverware, and we are still in with a terrific chance of achieving that goal.

We know exactly what challenge awaits us in the RDS tomorrow. We will need to deliver our best performance of the season to get to the final, but I'm confident we have what it takes.

For the winners, the reward will be massive: a final at Celtic Park in Glasgow. That will be an incredible occasion and one we are all determined to be part of.

Either my former team Ulster or a quality Glasgow Warriors side await in the final and we will be doing everything in our power to get to that stage.

Irish Independent

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