With 13 new faces to the Connacht Rugby pro squad for 2020-21 season, there are plenty players for the supporters to look forward to seeing in action in the months ahead.
 
Starting today for the next 13 days, we’ll introduce you to our newest arrivals and allow you to learn a bit about each of them.
 
First up? Irish international centre Sammy Arnold who joins from Munster Rugby!
 

How have your first few weeks been as a Connacht Rugby player?

It has been really enjoyable, I moved into my house in Barna with Conor and Alex a couple of weeks ago. It’s good to be back training again, throwing the rugby ball around and going back to normal life.

It must have been a strange first week going in and being in such a small group and not even being able to shake hands?

It was strange only meeting a handful of the lads but I ended up getting to know them very well which was one benefit. It integrated me into the group a bit slower which was nice and got to know those lads a lot more personally. We are back into a big group now and I am getting my head around the brand of rugby that Connacht wants to play.

The training has increased as the weeks have gone on, are you now at a stage where you have met all the players and all the coaches?

Training has ramped up this week so I have met all the coaches and players at this stage. We are back doing full 15 stuff on the pitch. For me, that is the most exciting thing because you can get a feel for the team. You can now throw the ball around and have a bit of fun whereas in the smaller groups there would be more gym or skills sessions.

Was it tough waiting for pre-season to start knowing you’re joining a new club but at the same time going through lock-down and everything?

The season finished very abruptly which happened to everyone who was moving club. I switched over to Connacht during the lock-down knowing that I would be playing with them in August if the games were restarting and luckily they will. It was a quick change and I said my goodbyes over Zoom and was ready to move forward.

How have you found working with the coaches and S&C teams?

In the initial stages, I had been working closely with Dave Howarth. Since getting back I have met Johnny and Barry, the S&C team are incredible. In terms of getting back on the pitch, Nigel coached me with the Irish U20’s so I would know him well. I have known Jimmy since I was young as well, so it is great being able to work with them both. There is a lot of clarity coming from the coaches on what they want from us. Pete Wilkins is driving the defence hard and it’s something I am excited to be part of it going forward.

There’s a lot of competition for places in your position so I presume you’re all eager to impress ahead of the Interpros?

There is competition no matter where you go, if you are playing the best consistently then you are going to start. It is up to myself when I get the opportunity to consistently perform and whoever is playing the best will get the starting jersey regardless. That is something that really excited me from speaking with Friendy.

If you were selected for the match against Munster how do you think you would find it?

It would be strange, especially if there are no fans in the stadium. I always like to play hard and play with my heart on my sleeve. It would be an exciting game and I would be looking forward to playing against some of the lads for sure.

What would you like to achieve with Connacht?

I am at the age now where I am not a kid anymore, I am 24 now, it’s time to kick on a bit and become a provincial starter. There is a lot of competition in the midfield, but I will aim to perform as best I can.

Have you got to experience much of Connacht and the West of Ireland since you moved?

I have been to some of the beaches like Silverstrand, the drive in from Barna to the Sportsground is amazing. It is great to witness those views on the drive into work in the morning. Maybe in the winter, it will be different, but I am looking forward to more exploring once we get a bit of time off.

Living with the two lads from Munster must be a great help to get you settled into a new club?

It makes it easier; I have played with Conor since I was 16 and he was 17, we have played together for the guts of 8 years, which has been good. I have played with Alex for four years and played with Stephen Fitzgerald since U20’s. They are all guys I know well; it makes the transition easier when you can speak to someone consistently. It is been great having people who are in the club already to rely on them for information.

Finally, it is likely going to be a while before you get to play in a packed house in the Sportsground but I am sure you will be looking forward to that time when it happens and getting to mingle with the fans?

I am massively looking forward to it. From playing at The Sportsground a few times you can tell it is a very personal stadium, the fans are very connected with the players and it is a very close community. It is something I am looking forward to experiencing it and getting to know the supporters and hopefully performing for them on the pitch which is the most important thing.

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