Saturday 18 November 2017

Sweetnam not concerned by return of rivals

Darren Sweetnam goes over to score a try for Munster during their Guinness PRO14 Round 3 match against Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea. Photo: Ben Evans/Sportsfile
Darren Sweetnam goes over to score a try for Munster during their Guinness PRO14 Round 3 match against Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea. Photo: Ben Evans/Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Darren Sweetnam says he is embracing the pressure to perform at Munster as a host of internationals prepare to return to the squad.

The Cork man says he has been encouraged to develop his game thanks to the support of his coaches at the province, and that he is now happy to do battle with his multi-capped rivals for a starting shirt.

Seven tries last season was a good return for the former Cork hurler, but before injury struck against Leinster on St Stephen's Day, Sweetnam had started all 15 of Munster's games, and his good form saw him called in to train with Ireland in October.

Two tries from three games this season has seen him return to form immediately for Rassie Erasmus's side, and despite some big hitters still to return, Sweetnam is happy to embrace the pressure to perform.

"I think it's good though, isn't it, to have all that competition? Especially in the back-three there is so much competition at the moment with Alex Wootton playing so well, Andrew Conway, Zeebs is coming back now, Keith Earls, Ronan O'Mahony," said Sweetnam.

Competitive

"It's one of the most competitive positions on the team. But look, it's good, it drives everyone on and keeps us honest and makes us work hard.

"Yeah, you can look at it as pressure as well, but I look at it on a positive note. As in we are a tight-knit squad, the competition drives us on and gets the best out of everyone. I look forward to that challenge.

"I'm just concentrating on my own game, work hard and do whatever I can do, what's in my control really."

But 12 months on from his major breakthrough, Sweetnam says the belief that he has in his game is the big difference as the eyes a crack as Glasgow Warriors this weekend.

The Cork winger had a real break-out campaign last season and nailed down the starting berth on the right wing before injury struck, but he is more comfortable in his surroundings now.

"I think confidence was my biggest thing. I wasn't the most confident player but after last season and playing those games definitely got me more confident.

"I just need to keep progressing at that and hopefully I have a good year again this year," said 24-year-old Sweetnam.

"I think Rassie, Jacques (Nienaber), Felix (Jones) and Jerry (Flannery), they make it so easy to play. If you make a mistake or whatever, they make it so easy.

"They have this motto: 'you win some battles, you lose some battles'. That makes you play with so much more confidence, you are not afraid to make mistakes.

"Let's say you miss a tackle, they say: 'laugh about it, you'll get it next time'. That makes me play with so much more freedom and definitely helps my performance."

With three wins from those three games Munster lead Conference A, but they face pool rivals Warriors this weekend in their first significant test.

"We played Glasgow four times last year and I think they were all close margins. It's going to be difficult to go over there to Scotstoun but we are looking forward to it," he said.

"Look, we just want to keep building on our performances and pick it up from last weekend now. Go over with a good positive attitude to Glasgow and hopefully get a win."

Irish Independent

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