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'You can see his footwork is exceptional' - Munster excited by Sweetnam

The 23-year-old was superb against Cardiff last weekend.
Sep 13th 2016, 6:15 AM 8,563 16

IN CASE YOU haven’t heard, it’s worth keeping an eye on Darren Sweetnam in Munster this season.

The southern province’s fans, and the Cork hurling community, have known for some time that the Dunmanway man is a special athlete. But now the man they call ‘Sweets’ looks set for the breakout season he has long promised to deliver.

Munster’s Darren Sweetnam Sweetnam looks ready to fulfil his potential. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Word coming from Munster camp this summer was that the 23-year-old was ripping it up in training, with the performances that have followed certainly backing up the stories.

Sweetnam, who played senior hurling for Cork before committing full-time to rugby, was promising in the pre-season fixtures before suffering from a lack of possession in Munster’s win over the Scarlets on the opening weekend of the Guinness Pro12 season.

Last weekend against Cardiff, the former Bandon Grammar man exploded into life. His brilliant offload set up Andrew Conway’s try, while Sweetnam also man won aerial contests, beat defenders, and smashed Blues’ carriers into touch.

“Sweets has been in since the start of the season, you can see his footwork is exceptional, he always beats the first defender,” says Munster second row Billy Holland.

We need to get the ball in his hands more often in attack. He’s good in the air too. You’ve been watching him now for a couple of years and he’s just progressing the whole time. He works hard at his game.

“People have been incorrectly saying that he has only been playing rugby for the last few years, but he’s been playing since he was a young fella in Bandon. He’s been getting quality coaching through the last few years and it’s paying off at the moment, and it’s going to be massive for us this season.”

Sweetnam formed a back three with Ronan O’Mahony and Conway last weekend against Cardiff, and Holland says the trio set a standard the rest of Munster’s squad must meet.

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Munster’s  Ronan O'Mahony O'Mahony has been good early this season too. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“They were by far the best unit of our side. They contested well, every ball they took back they beat a few defenders. So our back three were really good, the other 12 of us need to up it a little bit I think.”

Despite the 24-23 defeat in Cork, Munster remain positive about life under new director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.

The likes of Sweetnam will be important in the rebuilding process, which Holland is confident will continue over the coming weeks.

I don’t know how long it’s going to take,” said Holland. “It took Connacht three years to get to where they wanted to go to.

“I don’t intend it taking us three years to get to where we want to go to, but by the same token we can’t go over and win against Scarlets like we did last week and beat one of the favourites for the competition in their ground, and then come [to Cork] the following week – six days later -  and lose.

“We need consistency week in, week out, which will come. There is a lot of learning going on in D and attack but I’m confident we’ll get there sooner rather than later.”

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Murray Kinsella


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