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'I don't want to be 50 sitting in the pub and thinking, 'I wish I had taken a risk'

Sammy Arnold made a big decision to switch from Munster to Connacht last summer.

Arnold made his Connacht debut against Munster.
Arnold made his Connacht debut against Munster.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IT’S NOT TOO long ago that Sammy Arnold had perhaps his best performance in a Munster jersey, as he teamed up with Rory Scannell in midfield to get the better of Toulon’s Ma’a Nonu and Mathieu Bastareaud at Thomond Park.

Munster’s 20-19 win in that Champions Cup quarter-final in March 2018 is best remembered for Andrew Conway’s stunning winning try but Arnold’s ferocious display in midfield was of the highest quality as he helped to shut down Toulon’s biggest threats.

It felt like a landmark performance for the centre and he started the semi-final defeat away to Racing the following month before going on to make his Ireland debut later that year, coming off the bench against the USA in a 57-14 win at the Aviva Stadium.

Frustratingly, things didn’t really kick on for Arnold from there as he had a few injury issues and Chris Farrell established himself as a key man for Munster in the number 13 shirt. 

The southern province still rated Arnold and wanted to keep him beyond last summer, offering him a new deal, but the 24-year-old instead opted for a move to Connacht.

“First and foremost, I think it’s a short career,” says Arnold when asked about that decision. 

“There are a lot of guys in Ireland with a lot of potential and they kinda sit around until they are 26, 27, or 28 and before you know it your career has passed you by and there is a new young fella on the block.

“You only get a few years when you are at your best. I have always said that I don’t want to be 50 or 60-years -old sitting in the pub drinking a pint and thinking, ‘I wish I had taken a bit of a risk there or I wish I’d backed myself a bit more.’

sammy-arnold-celebrates-after-the-game Arnold at Thomond Park after that Toulon game in 2018. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“I know that when I get a run of games and I’m playing my best, I’m good enough to be playing European rugby. 

“It was an incredibly tough decision. I won’t go into details but it finished strangely. Obviously, Covid hit in March and then I was straight down here.”

He looks back on his four years with Munster without regrets and says he has “real fondness” for the place, having first joined the province from Ulster in 2016.

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“It was a bit of a rollercoaster, I suppose,” says Arnold. “My first season there, I was pretty much injured the whole year. My second year, a few injuries and I got thrust into a European quarter-final, semi-final.

“But then I felt as if it just stalled a bit after that. I found that very frustrating and I felt that I almost had to take back control of my career.”

Arnold knew he was good enough to be playing regularly in the Champions Cup and decided that Connacht would provide him with that opportunity. He has settled into life in Galway very happily.

Arnold is set to be involved for Connacht as they start their Champions Cup campaign on Sunday with a demanding trip to Paris to take on last season’s runners-up, Racing 92.

He already has six starts for Andy Friend’s side under his belt, four at outside centre and two on the wing.

He doesn’t turn 25 until next April so clearly has plenty of time to force his way back into the Ireland reckoning, something which motivates him.

sammy-arnold Arnold made his Ireland debut in November 2018. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I won’t be getting ahead of myself,” says Arnold in that regard but he has always been a player of potential, coming through the IRFU’s Exiles system to play for the Ireland U20s having made the move from his native England across to Ulster.

He is now keen to get his career back moving in the right direction, much like a few other ex-Munster men now with Connacht.

Arnold lives with Alex Wootton – currently on loan from Munster – and Conor Fitzgerald, who was released from the southern province’s academy in 2018, while the out-half’s older brother, Stephen, and Conor Oliver are also now with Connacht.

“Me and Conor have played together since I was 16 and he was 17 for the Ireland U18 Clubs and then Alex as well, we would be very close friends,” says Arnold.

“We all live together now in Barna just down the road. The lads here have the craic saying it’s the old Munster house!”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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