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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019
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'I love those moments': Bill Johnston keen to deliver more crucial deeds for Munster

The 21-year-old is working his way up the pecking order of Munster out-halves.

PROMISING MUNSTER NUMBER 10 Bill Johnston is hoping that he has put his injury nightmares behind him as he prepares to push on to deliver on the promise he showed as a teenager.

Bill Johnston Johnston awaits the ball in Newport. Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

Johnston, who will turn 22 this Sunday, inspired Rockwell College to a Munster Schools Senior Cup and was the out-half on the Irish U20 team in 2016 which produced Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Porter and James Ryan.

A shoulder injury, sustained in the first half of what turned out to be the first win by a men’s Irish side over New Zealand, unfortunately prevented him from playing a larger role in that team’s run to the World Rugby U20 Championship final.

The Clonmel native was underage for the tournament again the following year in Georgia, but he missed it through a fractured fibula picked up helping a Munster A side who went on to win the B&I Cup.

Johnston has taken the injury blows in his stride and having made his debut off the bench against Zebre two years ago, he made his first start this season away to the Cheetahs and was again selected to start at out-half against Zebre and the Dragons. 

He showed impressive mettle too, when coming off the bench against Ulster in December to secure a losing bonus point with a late penalty in Ravenhill.

Bill Johnston kicks a penalty Johnston kicking a late penalty against Ulster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Now he is poised to start his first home match when Munster take on the Kings in Cork on Friday and he can’t wait for it.

“I had a few injuries early on, like everyone seems to do some time in their careers, but I’ve had a clean bill of health for nearly two seasons now and feel that those days are behind me,” said Johnston. “It’s great to be playing and training and developing every week.

When you’re not on the pitch actively, you don’t get the same exposure but at the moment I’m on the curve that I want to be on.  It’s up to me to take the chances when they come my way.”

Competition for the 10 shirt could not have been more daunting at the start of the season with the arrival of Joey Carbery intensifying the pressure with Tyler Bleyendaal, Ian Keatley and JJ Hanrahan all apparently ahead of Johnston in the pecking order.

Keatley has since departed for London Irish before a summer move to Treviso and Carbery’s international duties have also created an opening which the Tipperary man hopes to seize.

“I was one of four or five out-halves and I was very aware of that. I knew my chances would be limited but also that everyone couldn’t be happy every week.

“Representing the A team in the Celtic Cup became my aim.  I kind of took a leadership role there and that was great for my confidence that I had to lead my team-mates and be a leader for that team.

Bill Johnston Johnston in training in UL this week. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“That helped my experience and that exposure helped me to move on again.  Then I got a few opportunities in the league that I was happy with and felt I had a few good games, like against Ulster, and I was happy with my level of performance. Getting the penalty in a hostile environment to get us a losing bonus point up in Ravenhill was big for me.

“I went into that game trying to be as relaxed as I could be and it was an experience I really enjoyed.  It’s not every day that a 21-year-old gets the chance to play in front of that many people. 

“When I came on, I thought I made a good impact and to get that kick at the end was one that kickers pride themselves on when there’s something at stake.  I love those moments.

“I’m kicking on now and once my game time increases my production continues and even increases and that’s the challenge,” he added.

- This article was updated at 11.02pm to correct Johnston’s age to 21, and Munster’s opposition this weekend to the Kings.

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John Fallon

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