Penney hopes big guns make the difference
By Barry Coughlan
Munster will roll out a couple of heavyweights for their trip to Llanelli tonight.
Ronan O’Gara and Donncha O’Callaghan have been released by national coach Declan Kidney for what amounts to one of the most important games of Munster’s RaboDirect Pro12 campaign.
A win is almost essential if Rob Penney’s side are to bridge the gap between sixth and the top four and it will be a major boost to have the vastly experienced O’Gara and O’Callaghan available, even if neither will be allowed play the full 80 minutes.
Penney is intent on picking up the points and has retained Ian Keatley, believing the in-form 25-year-old can make an impact from full-back and work some magic alongside Denis Hurley and Johne Murphy.
Having lost the home fixture to the Welsh side, there are issues to be addressed in the front row, which suffered from disputed refereeing decisions in Cork. Wian du Preez, BJ Botha and Mike Sherry, who has been honoured with the captaincy, will be determined to make a strong statement.
Ivan Dineen and JJ Hanrahan have been given another run in the middle of the field, while Penney hopes Ian Nagle can back up a fine performance in last week’s win over Edinburgh.
Scarlets will enjoy an equal amount of latitude from their national coaches, with Liam Williams and Josh Turnbull returning from Welsh camp to help the side who are searching for three home wins in succession after wins over Leicester and Connacht.
Head coach Simon Easterby was anxious to reward most of the players involved in that win over Connacht.
“We were pleased with how we reacted after conceding an early try to Connacht, we took control in the second half, had akicking success rate of 80% plus and we were pragmatic.”
Easterby went on this week to force his team into a gruelling two-day team-bonding exercise in Pembrokeshire which he hopes will invigorate rather than exhaust his troops.
“It was designed to give us the opportunity of connecting with a real Scarlets heartland within our rugby region and build strong team spirit ahead of this game.”
Penney, meanwhile, has his own views on what he wants to happen.
“We need to hold onto the ball, nullify what they do around their lineout and just build pressure. Last time we played them the conditions deteriorated and we had seven clear scoring opportunities, we didn’t take one.
“CJ Stander got over next to the uprights but the try wasn’t awarded and it was a very close loss in the end.
“We made some errors but played very well into the gale in the second half, unfortunately the game was over by then, it was just too tough to play catch-up into that gale.”
SCARLETS: G Owen; L Williams, G Maule, A Warren, A Fenby; O Williams, A Davies; P John, E Phillips J Adriaanse; G Earle, J Synman; R McCusker (capt), J Turnbull, K Murphy.
Replacements: K Myhill, R Jones, S Lee, J Ball, J Edwards, G Davies, A Thomas, N Reynolds.
MUNSTER: I Keatley; D Hurley, I Dineen, JJ Hanrahan, J Murphy; R O’Gara, D Williams; W du Preez, M Sherry (capt), BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, I Nagle; CJ Stander, T O’Donnell, P Butler.
Replacements: D Varley, J Ryan, S Archer, B Holland, S Dougall, C Sheridan, D Barnes, C Laulala.
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