Darren Sweetnam is hoping that with the Ireland contingent away on Six Nations duty, he can nail down a spot on the Munster starting team and eventually impress Joe Schmidt.
The Cork native made his international debut during the 2017 Autumn Internationals coming on as a replacement for Rob Kearney before making his first start against Fiji. Sweetnam’s third cap came against USA last November but it was a short-lived occasion as the 25-year-old was forced off due to a back injury.
Though he has been playing catch-up with Munster of late, Sweetnam admits that he hopes to be considered for international duty again in the near future through his provincial performances.
“I just need to concentrate on getting game time for Munster and when I get my opportunities, playing well. At the end of the day it’s all about getting down to the grindstone, working hard within my province, and getting on the pitch and playing well.
“Hopefully then, if I do well enough for my province, I’ll progress to national and catch Joe’s eye.”
Chris Farrell and Tadhg Beirne are the latest Munster call-ups to the international camp with the latter recovering from an early knock he took against Southern Kings last weekend.
The duo join Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Keith Earls, John Ryan, Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Joey Carbery, and Andrew Conway, leaving plenty of open slots in the Munster team which Sweetnam hopes to take full advantage of.
“It’s difficult for me at the moment because Earlsy [Keith Earls] and Andy [Andrew Conway] are playing so well, I just need to keep concentrating on my own game, working hard within the province, and when my opportunity comes, I just need to take it.
“There’s just so much competition within the squad that when lads get their opportunities, they take it as best they can. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of the younger guys, guys who haven’t been playing that often because of the Irish guys, so now it’s a big opportunity going into the next few weeks to pressure on the guys when they’re coming back.”
Munster are facing into a crucial period with two away games against Ospreys and Scarlets after which they face Zebre in Thomond Park. Following that Johann van Graan’s men travel to BT Murrayfield to face Edinburgh in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final.
The province currently lie top of Conference A after finally overtaking Glasgow in the table at the end of 2018. Having fought for so long, they are desperate to retain their spot.
“Every game is so important now, it’s almost like a Cup final. We’re only two points ahead of Glasgow at the moment and they’re playing third place at the weekend and we’re playing fourth so it’s a massive weekend.
“We need to go over there and hopefully get the win and keep the pressure on Glasgow because at the end of the day, a home semi-final is massive.
“You can never give up until the last game, you keep fighting which is a massive trait of Munster, we never stop fighting. We’re in a good position now we just need to push on.”