Friday 24 January 2020

'There's nowhere else you get 26,000 for a club game. It must be the biggest club rugby match in the world'

Grandfather's words give Arnold clear insight into rivalry of Munster-Leinster duels

Leinster travel to take on Munster on December 28. Image credit: Sportsfile.
Leinster travel to take on Munster on December 28. Image credit: Sportsfile.

John Fallon

The rivalry between Munster and Leinster wasn't big news in Surrey when Sammy Arnold was growing up, but a grandfather from Cork ensured that the Reds' centre was raised knowing exactly what it means to the southern province.

It has been a frustrating year for the 23-year-old, who suffered a leg fracture which dashed his dreams of a World Cup place and pushes any hopes of an international return into the distance. First and foremost, his eyes are set on Leinster and Saturday's sold-out Thomond Park clash.

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A grandad from Cork instilled sufficient Munster DNA for him to make the move south from Ulster and he's now in his fourth season with the province with 40 appearances under his belt despite a bad run on the injury front.

"I'm really enjoying it down here. I'm enjoying the rugby. Obviously, the niggles and the injuries have been frustrating and selection in the last however many months has been frustrating. But yeah it is what it is," said Arnold, who said that tales from his grandad ensured he had an appreciation of the Irish derbies before moving here.

"I would have heard a lot about them growing up. Obviously the TV coverage wasn't the same back then but my grandad was a Corkman so I would have heard a lot about them.

"He would always talk about Stringer and O'Gara and them kinda fellas. In terms of seeing the magnitude of Munster against Leinster, I didn't really realise it until I got here and played in it a couple of years ago. It was pretty shocking.

"I don't know anywhere else in the world where you get 26,000 to a club game. It's a special feature and lucky if you are involved in it. It must be the biggest club rugby match in the world."

Arnold made his Irish debut just over a year ago against USA but his hopes of pushing on from there were dashed when he fractured a leg against Connacht on the opening weekend in January.

The hard-working centre, who had played in all four Heineken Champions Cup at that stage last season, didn't feature again in the competition last term and missed the chance to stake a claim for Six Nations or World Cup duty.

The Surrey native made it back for a few appearances towards the end of the season but a few niggles this term has seen him start just twice and getting an Irish recall is down the list of priorities this Christmas.

No secret

"Obviously, I want to play for Ireland, there is no secret about that. I loved my experiences in camp with Joe (Schmidt) and Faz (Andy Farrell) but if you're not playing the big games you can't expect to be playing for Ireland.

"It would have been absolutely delusional to think I was going to be involved in the 'stocktake' because I haven't played, and I haven't played well enough when I have played.

"For me at the moment it's getting that consistent run of games and that form and playing well and there's absolutely no doubt in my mind I'm good enough I just have to get that run of games.

"Faz knows what I can do, he's a fella I worked with before and I'm sure he'd say the exact same thing 'Sammy hasn't played enough and that's the reality of it'. The squad is based on form, they're very in-form and there's a lot of young fellas that are getting their opportunities and it's exciting I think when you look at the squad he has.

"He's picked on form and there's a few new faces in there that everyone is getting a bit excited about as well."

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