WHILE SEVERAL OF his new Connacht team-mates were in camp with Ireland earlier this week, Robin Copeland feels that he is well out of contention for international honours.
The 30-year-old won his single Ireland cap under Joe Schmidt in a victory over Georgia in November 2014 but having struggled to earn first-choice status at Munster in the years since, Copeland has fallen out of the international picture.
This summer’s move to Connacht presents Copeland with an opportunity to nail down the starting number eight shirt, but the Wexford native won’t be holding his breath for an Ireland call-up even if he does rediscover his best form in Galway.
“It’s not even on my radar, to be honest,” said Copeland at an eir Sport event yesterday. “If you think Joe Schmidt is going to blood in a 30, 31-year-old [he turns 31 in October] for a World Cup or anything like that, I’m not on his radar.
“I’m not even going to think about that because what I want to do is take Connacht to the next level, get in the team, start week-in, week-out, prove myself to my peers and the fans that this guy is here and is going to be great for us. That’s all I’m looking at.
“If anything else happens after that, I’m always friendly to Joe, he is a very nice guy but it’s not on my radar. He is an interesting, intense individual. He has a big plan and I’m not naive to what he is trying to achieve, his long-term goals.
“It’s there in front of everyone, everyone can see it. He brings in young guys and brings in
guys consistently because he has a game plan and a system. A player on form is not necessarily what he looks at and it works, you can’t deny his plan works so, no, it’s not on my radar, it’s not one of my goals because I have so many goals before that I need to tick off.
“It’s not something I am looking at. Do I think I’d be able for it? I’d back myself 100% if I got that call but it’s not consciously on my radar.”
Copeland says he hasn’t spoken to Schmidt in “a little while,” but his most recent rugby conversations with the Ireland boss focused around consistency of performance, the mental side of his game, and cutting out errors.
Schmidt is well known for providing feedback even to players who don’t make his Ireland squads, as well as Irish players based abroad, and the fact that Copeland hasn’t heard from him in recent times suggests to the Connacht man that he’s not in Schmidt’s plans.
“I get on with him, he’s grand to me,” said Copeland of their relationship. “I did a bit of hosting for the Rugby Players Ireland awards at the end of the season. Just some Q and As, light banter between people.
“He came up to me and I was waiting for him to say, ‘Well done’ but he said, ‘Maybe get somebody else to do it next year,’ so that says a lot about mine and Joe’s relationship.
“I was like, ‘Thanks coach, you are doing a great job.’”
For Copeland, Connacht is everything right now and having settled into life in Galway happily, he is eager to get his season underway and show his quality.
A hip issue prevented him from featuring in last weekend’s pre-season friendly win over Brive in France, but Copeland is hopeful of being able to make an impact soon, both on and off the pitch, as he aims to take over from John Muldoon at number eight.
“It kills me to say it but I’m the second oldest player in the Connacht squad,” he said. “I don’t know how that happened, it just came out of nowhere.
“With that, I have to take on a senior role and be some type of leader and take on the responsibility that the club has put on me by signing me.
“I have to fill shoes that are very hard to fill and I’m going to be a player that the team and the coaches are going to turn to. That’s something that I feel I relish. I’m not scared of it.
“I know I’m going to be able to perform and give the coaches what they’re looking for. I’m excited and it’ll be an interesting season. I can’t wait to see how my role evolves as the season goes on.”
Robin Copeland was speaking at the eir Sport announcement that its first broadcast, Cardiff Blues v Leinster, will be made free-to-air to celebrate the channel becoming the new home of rugby in Ireland. Fans can watch the game in high definition on eir Sport 1 without a subscription, while the game will also be available on eir Sport’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
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