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In-form Wootton keen to make Connacht loan deal permanent

The winger is enjoying a new lease of life since making the move from Munster.

Connacht's Alex Wootton.
Connacht's Alex Wootton.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THE MORNING COMMUTE is always a little easier when you enjoy what you are doing. That’s why Alex Wootton isn’t too bothered by the spin up from Limerick to report for training in Galway. 

The wing’s loan move from Munster has sparked new life into a career which had hit a wall. Having been an important part of the Munster team at one stage, injuries and a struggle for form pushed him down the pecking order, with Wootton managing just nine appearances and two tries across his last two seasons with the province.

At Connacht he is thriving, with a return of 13 appearances and eight tries to his name already. He says the upturn is down to much more than just getting more time on the pitch.

“There’s a few things to be honest,” Wootton says.

“I’m 26 now, I’ve been a professional rugby player since I was 18 really, coming out of school. I’ve learned a lot along the way about how to look after my body, for one, how to mentally prepare. I’ve played in relatively big games, and I think I’ve just found a way in which I can prepare myself the best. 

“Then on top of that, you’re put into a new environment where I suppose you’re uncomfortable… it’s like the first day of school. New faces, new names, and a new culture altogether. And that’s how you grow really. 

“The people here have just been so welcoming, and they installed that belief in me as well, which is great. I think it’s all just been positive. But we’re still putting in the work, I’m putting in the work, we’re not taking anything for granted because I don’t really like to look back at the past but I look back at a year, a year and a half ago, I was just off the surgery bed, I was begging for game time down at Munster and it wasn’t coming.

“I’m in a position now where I’m working hard, trying to stay grounded, and I’ll take any bit of game time I can really.”

Wootton is far from the first player to feel the benefits of relocating to Connacht, who are striking a nice balance between bringing through their own homegrown talent and offering new opportunities to players whose careers are stagnating at the other provinces. 

Some of those imports have arrived in need of a morale boost, but in Wootton’s case, the 26-year-old says he never doubted his ability.

“I haven’t surprised myself (this season), and the reason why I say that is because if I didn’t believe I could do it, I wouldn’t be sat here now speaking the way I am,” he says.

alex-wootton-crosses-the-line-to-score-his-sides-first-try Wootton has scored eight tries so far this season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I suppose I maybe surprised a few people. After the first few games I played for Connacht a few of the lads turned around and were just like, ‘Oh, that was nice’… and it was (stuff) that I can do in my head when I visualise (playing). But look, it’s worked out, it really has, and it’s somewhere where I feel I can add value as well. And hopefully that can be for a long period of time.”

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That last sentence is the bit Connacht supporters will be glad to hear. Wootton is currently on a one-year loan deal with the province, but is keen to make the move a permanent one.

“I’ve really, really enjoyed my time here. It’s worked really well.

“I think the way things are going to pan out, hopefully there will be a bit of good news for Connacht and myself in the next few weeks.” 

Connacht head into this weekend’s game against Cardiff Blues knowing a win will put real distance between themselves and the Welsh side, who sit six points behind Andy Friend’s team having played one game more. However, the province have won just two of their last five Pro14 fixtures and are on a run of four straight defeats in all competitions at the Sportsground.

Not an ideal time to welcome one of the league’s meanest defences to town. Only Munster (18) have conceded less tries than the Blues (22) in Conference B this season. Wootton knows that being clinical could be the difference between winning and losing on Saturday.

“Defences are so good nowadays, especially in their own half, that you get one or two opportunities, especially as a back three player, and you’ve got to take those opportunities while you can,” he says.

“That’s really the way the game has gone, whichever opposition you are playing, but these guys especially, they like to come up and in. So whether or not it is going to be an expansive game this weekend, I’m not too sure. There will be a few factors to play in that.

“But there will be a few opportunities, like there is in every game, so it’s about whether or not we take them.”  

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