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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 17 November, 2018

'The lads in Munster were worse, they were calling me John MulCopey!'

Robin Copeland opted for a move to Connacht this summer.

THE FACT THAT he once led a flash mob in Cardiff city centre to help his former club to launch their new jersey tells us plenty about the energy Robin Copeland possesses.

Now 30-years-old, the number eight is as tireless as ever and just two weeks into his time with Connacht, Copeland is already one of the big characters in the group.

The Wexford native made the decision to leave Munster this summer after four years in Limerick that featured plenty of excellent performances but also a host of frustrations.

Robin Copeland Copeland has settled in well with Connacht. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

There were injuries at unfortunate times and CJ Stander owned the number eight shirt for the biggest games, but Copeland was still an important member of the Munster squad.

Even last season, the once-capped Ireland international played 24 times for Munster and could easily have been a starter in the back row towards the end of the campaign, when he showed his thrilling dynamism in a run of excellent form.

Copeland opted for a move away ahead of the 2018/19 season, however, and it was clear at Ballina RFC in Mayo this week how happy he is to have reached that decision.

“I felt like it was the right time to leave,” explained Copeland. “I felt like I was in no man’s land a little bit at Munster.

“I felt like I was able to add more to a team than I was adding there. They weren’t getting the best out of me and I wasn’t getting the best out of it.

“Connacht is a way of playing and in a style that I think is going to really suit me. It’s a great bunch of players, Galway is a great city and everything was pointing me towards there. I just felt a good feeling to go and it’s only been two weeks but I feel it was the right decision and I’m loving it.

“The vibe around the place is great and I really feel like I’m part of it already, so it felt like the right decision back then and it’s the best decision so far.”

Watching the light-hearted training session with a group of young fans at Ballina this week, it was obvious how Copeland has fitted seamlessly into this Connacht squad.

Ultan Dillane Copeland hard at work in Connacht's gym. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

He has been described as a “breath of fresh air” within the group and several of his team-mates shared their excitement about seeing him in action when the season gets underway.

“I haven’t felt like a new guy at all, really, just walked in on day one and took the piss out of a few lads so they were like, ‘Right, he’s one of us now!’” said Copeland.

“I have to say I’ve been really impressed with the coaches and facilities and S&C [strength and conditioning] and the players have all been great so I’m loving it so far.”

Of course, Connacht have lost one of their greats this summer in John Muldoon, who retired and took up a role as defence coach under Pat Lam at Premiership club Bristol.

Muldoon was a superb number eight for Connacht and Copeland has been facing plenty of slagging about taking on the task of filling his boots.

“The lads in Munster were worse, they were calling me John MulCopey!” said Copeland with a laugh.

“Look, I’m definitely not trying to fill his boots. He’s an absolute legend of the club and to try and fill a man like that’s boots is nigh-on impossible.

“I’m just trying to bring my way of doing things. The first thing on the list is getting the team to win our first game and try to find a culture we’re all going to get behind, a way of doing things, because we’re not last year’s team or the year before.

Robin Copeland Connacht are excited about Copeland's dynamism. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We’re a new Connacht team and have some new players, with some of the older and experienced players gone, so we’re going to have to find a way of doing things that really suits us. We’ll hopefully hit the ground running.”

Copeland signed for Connacht when Keiran Keane was still head coach, but he has been impressed by new boss Andy Friend, who arrived last week from Australia.

The coaching team of Nigel Carolan, Jimmy Duffy and Peter Wilkins has been retained to assist Friend and Copeland is looking forward to working with the Connacht staff.

“Andy is on board with the coaches who were already there,” said Copeland. “Sometimes it’s tough coming in as a new coach when others have been there, just to put your own stamp on things but everyone is on the same page.

“He’s the man for the job and he’s going to do really well here. Everything he says is on the ball, I feel, and when he speaks he says the right thing at the right time. There’s no bullshit about him and I’m really happy he’s here.”

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Murray Kinsella

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