Belfast Telegraph

Blues' Copeland only has eyes for an Irish shirt

By Steve O'Neill

Cardiff's Wexford-born back-rower Robin Copeland has insisted that he will not contemplate switching international allegiance to Wales – as it remains his "dream" to play for Ireland.

The 26-year-old, who faces Ulster at Ravenhill tomorrow night, could qualify to play for Wales under residency guidelines before the next World Cup.

But the man of the match in last week's stunning Heineken Cup win against European champions Toulon has dismissed the idea.

The former Leinster Academy player was not included in Joe Schmidt's Ireland squad yesterday, and even though he remains firmly on their radar, Copeland admits that he is a long way from Ireland recognition.

"Right now my allegiances are with Ireland and not qualifying for Wales," said Copeland, who will again be viewed by Irish management in tomorrow's PRO12 clash.

"I am Irish born and bred and that is my thought process leading into the next few years. It would be fantastic to put a green jersey on," he added.

"When I was playing with Rotherham I had the opportunity to play in the Aviva Premiership or RaboDirect PRO12.

"I felt playing against Irish teams would be more beneficial for me and good to get noticed.

"It has always been my dream and ambition to get noticed and build a reputation for myself.

"The dream is to play in the green jersey.

"I won't be eligible for Wales for a few years yet and that is not in my mind. But I know I'm also a long way from playing for Ireland. There are a few things I need to work on and keep improving."

Copeland has enjoyed a steady rise through the ranks across the water. Last year, he admitted that he hadn't been "mentally ready" for Leinster.

"I have thought about Ireland, I won't deny it," said the player who has also indicated a willingness to return to Leinster at some stage.

"I turned 26 this week so I don't have that much time to mess about. I'm not going to stress or worry about it. If it happens or doesn't is not in my control."

In time-honoured fashion, Copeland will refocus his attention on letting his rugby do the talking as his side prepare for tomorrow night's visit to Ravenhill.

"I like to think the Toulon game was a turning point for Blues and we are all looking forward to the Ulster game. We shouldn't fear anyone after that," he said.

"The Ulster game is an even harder game because it is away. They have come off winning in France.

"They have some great players. Nick Williams is a big strong guy. He's got better and better the last few years and works so hard. He is hard to stop.

"He is a key player for them and he can do real damage when you come up against him. I'm looking forward to it."

Belfast Telegraph


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