Munster centre Sammy Arnold said he would be ‘delusional’ to have notions of getting back into the Irish squad at the moment before he chalks up a run of games for the province.
The 23-year-old made his Irish debut just over a year ago against the USA but his hopes of pushing on from there were dashed when he fractured his leg against Connacht on the opening weekend in January.
Arnold, who had played in all four Heineken Champions Cup games at that stage last season, didn’t feature again in the competition last term and missed out on 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.
“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.”
First up for Arnold is a crack at Leinster in Saturday’s sold-out clash at Thomond Park, then there’s a trip back to Belfast where he played 14 times, including his Heineken Champions Cup debut, having come through the Ulster academy after moving across the Irish Sea.
A grandad from Cork instilled sufficient Munster DNA for him to make the move south 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.”
He said the crunch Heineken Champions Cup game against Racing 92 is coming swiftly down the tracks but he’s not looking past the first hurdle and that’s been occupying him all week.
“The Racing game is obviously massive, everybody knows that but at the same time everything has to be realistic and we have to focus every single week. That Racing game will come around soon enough you can’t really overlook games against Leinster and Ulster so we’ll take that when we come to it but everybody is excited about the next few weeks,” he added.