REWIND TO LAST November and Darren Sweetnam is making his Ireland debut off the bench against South Africa.
It’s the 80th minute and with Ireland cruising on a scoreline of 31-3, Joey Carbery fires a crossfield kick wide to the right and into clear space.
Sweetnam scorches after it and makes a superb pick-up at speed, shows strength not to be tackled into touch, then fights cleverly on the ground to ensure the ball isn’t turned over by the Boks. Less than 20 seconds later, Jacob Stockdale scores on the other side of the pitch.
A week later, Ireland are in action against Fiji and Sweetnam bags his first Ireland try in the seventh minute, benefiting from a beautiful Carbery break and pass to dart over in the right corner.
While it was an injury to Keith Earls that opened the door for Sweetnam in last season’s November series, the 25-year-old showed that he has the ability to play Test rugby.
Now heading into his fifth season of senior rugby with Munster, Cork man Sweetnam will be keen to first nail down a starting spot in Johann van Graan’s side but there will also surely be an ambition to add to his two international caps.
Earls, Calvin Nash, Alex Wootton and Andrew Conway provide van Graan with other strong options out wide, of course, but Sweetnam made an excellent start to his bid to be one of Munster’s first-choice wings in last Friday’s friendly win over London Irish.Source: Munster Rugby/YouTube
The visiting Championship side found it extremely difficult to tackle Sweetnam, who made big yardage with every touch and cut through the Exiles’ defensive line for clean breaks at least three times.
The Dunmanway native showed off his fine footballing skills for his try, bursting out of his own half to chase a Dan Goggin hack forward, nudging the ball on with his right foot and then calmly slowing and dipping to scoop it up and score.
There was very nearly a stunning individual try for Sweetnam later in the first-half too as he rose to gather a London Irish kick close to the halfway line, beat one defender, chipped over another and gathered the ball again, only to narrowly lose it forward in the final tackle a metre out from the tryline.
While it was only a pre-season game against rusty Championship opposition, Sweetnam’s 65-minute performance certainly bodes well for the season ahead.
“Sweets is one of the most gifted ballers that I’ve ever coached,” said Munster boss van Graan, who worked with the Super Rugby-winning Bulls and the Springboks before. “He can do incredible things.
“Last week in the Munster golf, I had the privilege to play against him and some of the shots that he hit, I just looked at him and said, ‘Sweets, that’s not according to your handicap!’
“But he’s such an incredible footballer with his catch-and-pass, his feet, his running ability.
“I thought he really had a good game, so it’s good for us the more guys that can regain their confidence and hit the season running.”
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