Penney warns on overseas contracts

Rob Penney has cautioned against hierarchical inflexibility relating to the renewal of contracts for overseas players in Ireland.

Munster coach Penney believes the controversial Player Succession Policy has merits but argues that common sense must also be considered in its implementation.

Penney was yesterday specifically asked about the situation regarding South African prop BJ Botha, who it appears is holding out for the offer of a two-year contract, while the Irish Rugby Football Union is only prepared to sanction a one year extension.

But the New Zealander instead addressed the broader issue: “I can’t really comment on specific cases or individual cases with regard to BJ. I think there will be some challenges there for sure. It is about getting the balance between doing the right by the team, by having quality players in each position and also doing the right thing by Irish rugby.

However, Penney believes there are inherent dangers in an inflexible approach, saying: “You have just got to be sure if someone in a specialist position moves on, that the quality of the person that is Irish eligible is able to stand the workload and do the job well enough. Otherwise you end up with a player that, firstly, doesn’t get any benefit from playing footie back to back repeatedly and getting hammered, secondly, the ability to grow people on the back of that is really diminished.Thirdly, the team performance which we all want is to make sure all the Irish teams perform well on the international or the Heineken Cup and the Rabo in particular.

“The balancing act between having the desire of the IRFU to ensure Irish eligible players are in all positions is a great one. I think it has got real merit and it is something that I really believe in as well. But those other two things need to be taken into consideration when those decisions are made.”

Penney has other, more pressing, things on his mind this week, not least trying to juggle his team to prepare for Saturday’s RaboDirect clash with Connacht at the Sportsground. He will be without a significant number of his international brigade.

Only one – Donncha O’Callaghan – will be available for what Penney believes will be a difficult evening against a team he said had made huge progress over the last couple of seasons due to Heineken Cup exposure.

Felix Jones is all but ruled out with a thigh injury and Keith Earls will continue his rehab following a groin tear mostly under direction from Declan Kidney who brings together his international squad for training next week. Penney did observe, however, that Earls was well on the way to recovery.

“He is making good improvement. It was a grade one tear which is usually two to three weeks. He is three-quarters of the way through that process now so hopefully he’ll be able to do some more high end activity over the next week. We’ll see how he bounces back after the Irish camp and when he is available for some footie. I think he is really hopeful of being back for the Cardiff game.”

Meanwhile, it appears Dave Kilcoyne, who missed out on Munster’s Heineken Cup loss to Saracens through illness, will be back.

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