FORMER Munster women’s head coach Laura Guest is backing Darren Sweetnam to rediscover his best form in the Top 14 with La Rochelle.
The Dunmanway man has ended his ten-year association with Munster after he requested an early release from his contract to join the French outfit for the rest of the season.
He has linked up with La Rochelle as a ‘medical joker’ to cover the loss of the injured Jeremy Sinzelle.
Sweetnam, who joined Munster in 2012, was out of contract in the summer, but head coach Johann van Graan admitted that it wasn’t ‘feasible’ to keep the West Cork man on board for next season.
Instead, the 27-year-old will join Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle for the rest of the season and try to put himself in the shop window.
‘I think it’s a move that makes sense,’ former Munster and Ireland women’s rugby star Laura Guest told this week’s Star Sport Podcast.
‘He has had his injury problems across the last couple of seasons and he hasn’t been a regular feature for Munster even though he is still an incredibly talented winger.
‘This really is a great opportunity for him. He gets a bit of control over his chance of getting a new contract with some club for next season. If things go well in La Rochelle Ronan O’Gara might find a way of keeping him there as well. The French rugby style would probably suit him.’
Guest, who was head coach of the Munster women’s team for three seasons, feels Sweetnam has got the skills to flourish in the Top 14 and he’s joining the high-flying La Rochelle, who are second in the table.
‘I think they like to play a bit of ball in France, a bit more than Munster’s game currently. Maybe there is a bit more throw-the-ball-around in France and I think Darren has great skills. Potentially, with a bit of game-time under his belt, you could see a rejuvenated Darren Sweetnam, which would be brilliant,’ Guest explains.
‘At 27 he is only just beginning to come into his peak. For me he is a very similar player to Keith Earls – a similar size, he has the foot work, the aerial prowess and the defensive abilities of Earls – and you look at him and he is in the form of his life now at 33. Hopefully Darren can mirror that.’
An injury-plagued 2019/20 season saw Sweetnam fall down the pecking order in Munster, who are well stacked for talent on the wing, but his move to France can signal the start of his comeback.
‘He is a hugely talented player who has a chance to play in the premier French competition over the coming months and while we are disappointed to see him leave, we are supportive of the move with the hope of Darren securing future opportunities and success in his career,’ Johann van Graan says.