Like any rugby player, Stephen Archer just wants to play games. So after a personally disappointing Ireland camp, the Munster prop is delighted to be back in his province and eager to prove detractors wrong.
The 25-year-old tighthead copped some flak in sections of the media following his 24-minute shift off the bench against Australia 12 days ago on a day when Ireland misfired across the park at Aviva Stadium.
Archer was subsequently omitted from Joe Schmidt’s match-day squad to face New Zealand a week later as Declan Fitzpatrick returned as cover for Mike Ross. But the Corkman had no time to mope as his services were required by Munster and he gratefully accepted a bench role in last Saturday’s RaboDirect Pro12 bonus-point win at Cardiff Blues which helped his province take a four-point lead at the top of the table.
Munster have another potentially difficult trip to negotiate tomorrow night at the Newport Gwent Dragons and the tighthead is delighted to be getting back in the routine.
“Yeah, it was good. I didn’t make the Irish squad so it was obviously very disappointing, so it was good to come straight back in with Munster,” Archer said.
“You don’t have much time to be dwelling on it because you’re straight into a match and you’re straight in match preparation mode. That helps to get over the hangover of not getting selected for the national squad, so it was great.”
Archer said he had a feeling bad news was coming his way and so gave himself time to adjust his mindset from potentially facing the All Blacks to getting on a plane for south Wales.
“I suppose you just know on the Monday. From training I kind of knew, I didn’t get a feeling I was going to be in and when the team was announced on the Wednesday you just mentally prepare yourself, ‘hopefully get out of here now’ and get back to the Munster match, fingers crossed.
“The team was announced on the Wednesday and I left Wednesday afternoon after training. I came back and trained here Thursday, flew over Friday and the match was Saturday.
“Ask any player, they won’t want to be hanging around there holding a tackle bag. They want to be playing on the pitch.”
By the time Archer left national camp at Carton House, he had already sensed a big performance was coming from his Test team-mates.
“You could see it. There was a, I wouldn’t say it was a crisis meeting exactly, but there was a good meeting on the Monday when we arrived. Joe [Schmidt] held a good meeting and there was clarity of where we went wrong against Australia and what we could improve on. It was the simple things we needed to work on. It wasn’t changing the wheel or anything, just small little things we could improve on and you could see then, the lads were really focused for training on Tuesday, it was a good session and another good session on the Wednesday and you could see the improvement early, like, ‘Jesus, they’ll have a good go here’, you know?”
Working out what went wrong against the Wallabies in that 32-15 defeat the previous week was a little more forensic in camp than the flak that flew in the immediate aftermath on the nation’s airwaves. Archer felt the brunt of some of it as the Irish pack suffered a bad day at the office, but he is determined not to let it bother him.
“Pundits are paid to do that kind of thing but not particularly [bothered], no,” he said. “Friends and family were [telling] me [about it] but you just brush it off and move on and just concentrate on the next performance.
“I’d use it as a source of motivation. It’s obviously not a nice thing to be criticised on national TV but that’s the job we’re in. Use it as a source of motivation, move on and get on with the job.”
The job now brings him to contending with squad-mate BJ Botha for the starting tighthead role against the Dragons at Rodney Parade tomorrow night in Newport, and onwards into the Heineken Cup double-header with Perpignan, with thoughts of retaining his place in the Ireland squad for a Christmas mini-camp placed on the back-burner.
“I’m hoping just to get in this weekend, put in a good performance and stick my hand up for Perpignan, you know. I wouldn’t be looking too far ahead of that. If I get a good performance there against the Dragons, hopefully I’ll get in for those matches.”
As the second of two tough trips to Wales, it makes for a testing run-in to the home and away games with the Heineken Cup Pool 6 leaders, but last weekend’s victory at the Arms Park was an important box to tick.
“One down and it was a great result. It can work in two ways. You could look at it as tough, two away matches and if you lose two of them you kind of ‘urgh’, but if you win two tough away matches like that it’s a real good feeling for the squad. So it’s important we get that good feeling by winning on Friday.”
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