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Dublin: 15 °C Monday 17 June, 2019

'I'm filling in for those guys but want to try and put as much pressure on them'

Alex Wootton has enjoyed a sensational start to the season as he comes of age at Munster.

Wootton ran in four tries during yesterday's demolition of Cheetahs.
Wootton ran in four tries during yesterday's demolition of Cheetahs.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

THE FIRST FEW weeks of the season always brings opportunities, and Munster’s Alex Wootton has certainly taken his, scoring five tries in two games to come of age in a red shirt.

With the likes of Keith Earls and Simon Zebo still working their way back into the fold after summer exertions with Ireland, Wootton has stood out in the province’s opening two games and became just the second Munster player to score four tries in a Celtic League fixture last night.

Only Mike Mullins back in 2001 has achieved the incredible scoring feat for Munster previously and the 23-year-old becomes just the fifth player to cross four times in a single match in the competition; Cardiff’s Lee Abdul (2003) and Jamie Robinson (2004) and Glasgow’s Tommy Seymour (2016) were the others.

Wootton, born in Stockport and a product of the Northampton Saints academy, scored a brace in each half as the hosts ran in eight tries to clinically dispatch the challenge of the Cheetahs at Thomond Park.

Having brought his tally for the province to two with a try against Treviso last week, the flying winger demonstrated all his potential with an outstanding display of finishing and showcased why Munster tied him down to a contract until the end June 2019 despite an injury-hit season last year.

“The things we worked on during the week paid off and luckily in the week I was on the end of some tries in training and obviously it came off in the game so a good performance from the lads and a few nice walk ins,” he said afterwards.

“The boys did the hard work, I stayed on my wing and ran into the corner. Happy to finish off for the boys.”

Alex Wootton The 23-year-old now has seven tries in a red jersey. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

While his first two efforts were effectively put on a plate for him by the impressive Darren Sweetnam, Wootton’s third score was the one which stood out as he latched onto Duncan Williams’ kick through to finish in the far corner.

“The one where Duncan put it through and I was just chasing, I could hear the crowd on the way to the ball and it bounced perfectly for me and managed to finish it off. That was the one that stood out,” the man-of-the-match continued.

Wootton’s fourth try was his final act of a memorable day as he received a standing ovation from the Thomond Park faithful, although being replaced by Zebo is a reminder that there are big players to come back into the squad.

Zebo’s presence among the replacements no doubt spurred Wootton on to grasp his opportunity with even greater tenacity and certainly he has been central to a Munster backline, and in particular a back three, which has fired in the first 160 minutes of the season.

Granted the level of opposition — Treviso and the Cheetahs — means the results and the ease in which Munster cut them apart will be taken with a pinch of salt, Wootton, Andrew Conway and Sweetnam have formed a devastating combination.

Rassie Erasmus pointed out how pleased he was with the attack in the first two games after last night’s game, and Wootton knows the more he impresses, the more pressure Zebo and Earls will find themselves under pressure when they try and break back into the team.

Toyota Cheetah’s Makazole Mapimpi and Munster’s Darren Sweetnam Darren Sweetnam again impressed. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I’m filling in for those guys but want to try and put as much pressure on them guys and see what happens,” the former Ireland U20 international added. “It makes them better, makes me better so we’re all happy and I’m sure the coaches will be happy as well.”

After two bonus point wins from two, it’s a happy camp and the moment but both Erasmus and the players know next week’s trip to Ospreys will be a considerable step up.

“We know what they’re like,” Wootton said of next week’s opponents. “Obviously playing them last year here at home it was a tough game and it’s always a tough encounter when we play those guys. We’ll do our homework during the week.”

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Ryan Bailey

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