Munster need a bonus-point victory from Sunday’s clash with the Scots at Thomond Park to retain any hope of earning a home Heineken Cup quarter-final draw, a tougher ask for the home side than would have been the case in the past.
“They’re certainly a different bunch than they were four months ago,” Penney said, yesterday. “They’ve developed a unity and a toughness that makes them very tough for teams to play against. We’ve seen Leinster go down to them, Perpginan, Gloucester away. They should have beaten Glasgow.
“They’re now a legitimate side. Over the last couple of years they may not have been seen as a big threat, although they did reach the semi-finals two years ago in the Heineken. They’ve got a little recipe going on there.
“They’ve developed something that’s starting to
become a bit special. It’s a bit nerve-wracking when you’re seeing it unfolding and from this perspective we could probably do without that now.”
However, with a potential financial windfall of €150,000 in ticket sales for the province at stake, Penney knows the pressure is on to get a positive result.
“There’s lots of reasons aren’t there? There’s the financial plus having another game at Thomond would be great for the fans,” he said. “The boys love playing there. It’s a tough place for opposition sides to come, a bit less travel for us. There’s multiple reasons.”
There’s also the motivation of revenge. Munster were surprisingly beaten by the Scottish side in the first round of the Heineken Cup in October.
“I don’t think we’d ruin it by putting a poor performance in. That would probably be overstating it but I don’t think the lads are in a position where they would want to have a sub-par performance going in, purely for their own pride I would think.
“They’re a group that are starting to build and they understand that every week there’s an opportunity to show their skills and their talents, particularly being at Thomond Park. They respect their fans and the history so much that I don’t there’ll be a problem for the group playing as well as they can. ”
The good news for Munster is that Simon Zebo came through his cameo in Gloucester without any complications following his long layoff with a foot injury. Now all that’s left is for the flying winger to play more rugby as he bids to get back into Joe Schmidt’s national squad.
“He has been given an extra week by Ireland and we wouldn’t have had him back in the mix last week unless he was a 100%,” said the coach.
“It’s not so good for Donnacha Ryan. [He’s] not recovering as quickly as we all would have hoped so he’s not in the mix this week.”