Ireland are Sweet on Darren as Dunmanway rugby ace prepares for first international start

Ireland are Sweet on Darren as Dunmanway rugby ace prepares for first international start
Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

THE whole of Dunmanway will be tuned in tomorrow at 5.30pm as one of the West Cork town’s most famous sons Darren Sweetnam start for Ireland against Fiji in the Aviva Stadium.

The Munster winger gets his first start for the national team against the South Sea Islanders after earning his first cap last weekend when coming on as a 74th-minute replacement against South Africa.

In one of his first plays of that game he took a ball off his toes to help set up Jacob Stockdale’s try and impressed Irish management enough in the game and at training this week to earn a starting spot. Munster team-mate, Chris Farrell, gets his first start in the centre.

The Irish coach paid tribute to the former Cork hurler’s calmness and said that because he doesn’t seem to get ruffled Sweetnam can become the ‘complete package’ over the Autumn Series.

“He seems a real calm, settled sort of guy,” Schmidt said. “I think a lot of times when you make errors stepping up to the next level, it’s more physical and you’ve got less time and space, so there’s more urgency to make decisions. You can be unsettled by that.

“He’s pretty calm, he’s got some good footwork. He knows where the try line is, he finishes well, he’s got some good defensive habits and some of that we’ll keep working on. He’s a package that’s interesting and he’ll be looking to become a more complete package through these three weeks.”

Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Schmidt has chosen to rest Munster captain Peter O’Mahony, with Rhys Ruddock taking O’Mahony’s place alongside Jordi Murphy and Jack Conan in a new Irish back-row, with Stander in reserve on the bench.

Schmidt has also rested his half-backs where Kieran Marmion partners Joey Carbery with Stuart McCloskey and Chris Farrell in the midfield.

Andrew Conway is named at full-back with Dave Kearney joining Darren Sweetnam on the wings.

The replacements for tomorrow are James Tracy, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Kieran Treadwell, CJ Stander, Luke McGrath, Ian Keatley and Robbie Henshaw.

O’Gara move:

Meanwhile, in today’s Irish Examiner, Ronan O’Gara has confirmed he has been contacted about a switch from Racing 92 to Crusaders.

The highly-rated coach and Munster legend conceded in his column that he’s tempted by the prospect of a move to New Zealand.

Racing 92 defence coach Ronan O'Gara. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Racing 92 defence coach Ronan O'Gara. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

“If something is to happen it would be fairly imminent, given the southern hemisphere rugby calendar. Their season goes from February to August,” writes O’Gara.

“Whatever way it pans out, my future is not linked to Simon Zebo’s. I would be very confident that Racing 92 remains his preferred choice for next season in the Top 14.

“It’s something he’d had on his career checklist for some time, whether Ronan O’Gara was there to pick him up from the airport or not.”

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