Many Munster fans were shocked when James Coughlan, one of the most admired and respected players in the squad for the previous decade or so, looked to be released from the final year of his contract to sample life in Pau, France, with his wife and family.
While they wished him the very best of luck, they also wondered who was going to fill his boots?
The Munster brains trust turned to Robin Copeland, the Wexford native plying his trade with Cardiff Blues. The 6ft, 5ins, 17st 4lbs Copeland hasn’t had many chances to show off his prowess so far this season but his first serious test comes on Saturday, against his native province at the Aviva Stadium.
“I am trying to immerse myself in the culture, what is expected of me and the team,” said Copeland.
“There were lots of reasons why I came home and why I joined here. The main one was to try and win trophies and try and work my way into the starting team and eventually into a green jersey. They are the big goals. Playing well in these games is a big part of that, so yeah I guess there is a responsibility and expectation to perform. Yeah, for these big occasions, you have to bring your A game.”
Copeland, who celebrates his 27th birthday later this month, is grateful to another Leinster-born Munster player, Felix Jones, for enabling him to settle in seamlessly. And yet, he still feels he has ground to make up.
“I don’t think my performances in the past few weeks have been fantastic,” he mused. “I feel that it does take a while to settle into a new club. It is new moves, new players, new everything. They don’t know what I can do. I don’t know what they are going to do. It is a different structure, a different culture. It does take a while.
“I am not putting myself under any pressure to get those man-of-the-match performances straight away. I just want to get my roles right, do what is best for the team, get in right positions, defend well and do what I have to, before I can do the spectacular.
“I think we have the players, the structures, the game plan to put it up to any team. Maybe we are 2-3% off and once we get that final click, I think we are going to really start playing some very good rugby. Everything we need is there. It is just a matter oftime when that click is going to come.”
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