Monday 22 January 2018

The big interview: Robin Copeland - Still eager to show his full talents for province and country

Munster No 8 desperate to forge a regular spot in Anthony Foley's plans for the seasons ahead

Robin Copeland prepares to go into a scrum against Zebre Photo: Sportsfile
Robin Copeland prepares to go into a scrum against Zebre Photo: Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Robin Copeland never made it to the World Cup last year - when he moved from Cardiff Blues his primary objective was to crack the Ireland set-up. And no doubt the World Cup next door was part of his plans, but injury cost him dearly.

If he wanted to be part of Joe Schmidt's plans he needed to play more than 11 times in his debut season with Munster. He did all in his power, but despite four tries it wasn't enough and attention turned to 2015-'16.

First on the agenda is a regular slot in the starting 15, but that's easier said than done when he is competing in a line that goes from strength to strength.

Injured captain Peter O'Mahony is yet to add his experience, and with stand-in equivalent CJ Stander assuming the No 8 jersey, Copeland will have to fight.

However ironically, Schmidt's squad selection for the Six Nations has presented Copeland with an opportunity. The Wexford native wasn't picked but with Stander absent he now has his chance to prove why he can put Munster on the front foot.

At Cardiff Blues, Copeland was their main man at No 8. And when he joined up with his Irish colleagues in Limerick, he reiterated his intentions to push for international selection with some powerful displays.

But he had to undergo shoulder stabilisation surgery and that was the end of his first campaign. This time round, the 16-week block of games took a lot out of him mentally rather than physically, and the break came at just the right time - a trip to New York with a few tea-mates was badly needed.

"It's just great to be taking the mind off it for a while. It's good craic too and there's a good crowd of us," he says.

"I'm not particularly happy with my form. I was lacking a bit of confidence maybe, or just got a bit frustrated with things for a while. Things got a bit stale. I wasn't overly happy with my performances.

"Sometimes you just get into a bit of rut. Things can get a bit monotonous. You get into a bad frame of mind and dwell on things. Especially when we were losing a few games that we should have won.

"You dwell on the mistakes more when you lose, rather than when you are winning. It just started to annoy me and I was a bit frustrated. That's just the way it goes, sometimes you go in and out of form. You can't really explain it fully."


Copeland has notched up 18 appearances in the Munster red this season, and scored tries in inter-pro derbies against Ulster and Leinster. The 28-year-old knows it's important to put his best foot forward in those big matches, but that consistency is even more essential to get the opportunities.

Right now he feels like he isn't performing to the levels he can, but his subconscious confidence ensures that he knows the innate ability is there, he just has to bring it out on the pitch more often.

"I never feel annoyed if someone is starting ahead of me. I try and just think I am going to have a role no matter what. I am more than likely going to play. I just have to try and do my best when I get on.

"I have no arguments if there is a player playing better than me at the time, starting ahead of me. But I know what I can do, I know if I am playing the best I can, I should be starting and making the impact in games. I need to get back to that frame of mind.

"I trust in my abilities. I know if I play as well as I can that I am as good as anybody out there. I have just got to get back to that mindset of just believing in myself.

"But I am a very positive guy, always looking on the bright side. I never usually dwell on things too much. I know I am going to come back. I know it's all there. There's going to be a game soon where it will all click. Everything is going to feel good and I will be back at that level again.

"Back-row is always competitive in every team, that's just the nature of it. I know that I have just got to trust in myself and know what I am capable of. I know what I can offer a team. I know my role here.

"I get great feedback from the coaches on what they want in me and what they expect. They all believe in me and they want me in the team to do what I can do. It's great to hear that. They know that I can step into this position and do a job for them."

Copeland will have a bigger interest than many this weekend when Ireland lock horns with Wales in the Aviva Stadium on Sunday. Formerly of Cardiff, he knows many of the Welsh players very well.

He would like to be out on the field playing against them, but his time will come. He re-signed with a team professionally, for the first time this year when he secured a new contract with Munster. It could be the start of something special.

"Ireland's always in the back of my mind. But to play in a green jersey you have got to play well in a red jersey. You have to work your ass off to get there.

"In fairness to Joe Schmidt, he watches a lot of rugby and he doesn't miss a thing. You have got to clue into every single moment, work on your weaknesses and apply your strengths as best as possible.

"He's a kind of guy that loves guys that do the things he wants, the little things, the things most people wouldn't really think of. If you are doing them, he will notice and he will appreciate that and he will get you in the team."

Irish Independent

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