You are viewing the content for Thursday 10 January 2013

Penney parks past as crunch time looms

Rob Penney spent much of Saturday night replaying the horror show that was Munster’s performance in the RaboDirect defeat to Cardiff Blues at Musgrave Park on Saturday and he must have endured a sleepless night after reviewing the debacle.

It must have been frustrating for a man known for his optimism, but he is still confident his charges can recover to launch a vibrant European challenge over the next two weekends.

"I’ve had my head in my hands a couple of times," he admitted, "I didn’t sleep at all well on Saturday night. I watched the game over and over again because I’m the one that questions myself more than anybody about the direction and the opportunities, whether they’re false or real."

Penney was yesterday back in positive mood, however, even expressing reasonable optimism regarding the chances of injury victims Conor Murray, Mike Sherry and Stephen Archer of making the squad for Sunday’s must-win Heineken Cup clash with Edinburgh in Murrayfield.

"By Sunday, getting into Monday, I was really getting excited again, the hands on the head moments were there still watching the video, saying ‘goodness’, but there’s also a lot of excitement in where I see this group can go. "I’ve got faith in this group and I’ve got faith in what we’re trying to do; I suppose the underpinning thing for me is that the boys do too — on the back of a couple of robust days and soul searching.

"I’m open-minded enough, I’m not closed to change. If we need to change, things will change, things will be added and things will be taken out. I mean that’s the dynamics of the business, you can’t stand still."

Penney takes heart from the way the three walking wounded helped manage their own rehabilitation to put themselves back in the frame for early selection. It is, he says, indicative of the overall desire within the squad.

None of the trio, Murray (mouth), Sherry (ankle) or Archer (thigh) trained yesterday, but the coach observed: "It’s great for those guys to have such a great attitude to recovery and rehab that they are back in the frame."

Munster will be boosted by the availability of five front-liners who failed to participate at Musgrave Park due to rest requirements. Simon Zebo, Peter O’Mahony, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan and Casey Laulala are all back in the frame, while Keith Earls suffered no adverse reaction to a groin strain in his 60-minute appearance last week.

Penney is also hoping those on the wrong side of the Cardiff scoreline will have heeded the harsh lessons meted out to them, notably that you can’t win matches off the back of a one-dimensional attacking performance.

"I’m really confident that the space and opportunities that they’re not taking will be taken at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later," he said.

Based on history, he is also hopeful Munster can turn it around quickly: "A lot of people were telling me about Munster losing a Rabo game before the Heineken Cup and then coming good.

"We have had a great couple of days so I think we’re over that little hump and looking forward positively."