Like every bar, school, water cooler and gathering point in the land this week, the Munster team room has heard numerous discussions about the remarkable events at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
That epic between Ireland and New Zealand has got the nation talking rugby and for Munster head coach Rob Penney the conversation has been specifically about the All Blacks’ impressive comeback from 19-0 down to snatching an historic victory deep into stoppage time, a quality his players should be trying to emulate.
“(The game) is never gone, there is always a sting in the tail,” New Zealander Penney said yesterday of his compatriots’ sense of belief, not just on Sunday in Dublin, but 24 hours earlier when the country’s rugby league team pulled a victory out of the fire in similar circumstances over England to reach that code’s World Cup final..
“It was an amazing weekend for New Zealand sports teams with the Kiwis’ league team doing the same thing the day before. Incredible. There are some great learnings for our group on the back of witnessing those two occasions. Time on the clock still means there’s an opportunity.
“It is a good discussion topic for any team. We discussed it, just what is it that allows teams to get to that position under duress and stress and when things are going against you, how can you harness what you need to harness to get a result.”
Playing to the final, long blast of the whistle has also been a trait in Munster’s rugby legend but Penney believes it should not be taken for granted, particularly in a squad with a young age profile.
“There is (a legacy) but there are not many of those players here in Munster now. Just because it has been here before doesn’t mean the culture of the team exists with the current crop, you know. Some of these guys have got to learn a bit of that.”
Asked he had been impressed by his “own country” on Sunday, Penney replied: “Ireland? Yeah,” before going to praise the Munster contingent of Conor Murray, Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony. “Our three lads did a terrific job, the whole lot of them did. They did the country proud. I thought it was a great advertisement for rugby.”
Murray, he said, was “outstanding”, “a world-class half-back, always said that, and he has more improvement in him,” before also welcoming back to the province the Ireland squad members such as James Coughlan and Stephen Archer, who had more frustrating experiences in the November national team camp.
No.8 Coughlan is still waiting for his Test cap while tighthead prop Archer was limited to just 24 minutes of what was already a lost cause against Australia. Penney said he expected them, along with fellow returnees Mike Sherry, Donncha O’Callaghan and Felix Jones, who was called up as injury cover for Rob Kearney last week, to be eager to make a further impression ahead of the Six Nations in the New Year.
“Those guys are an important part of our mix and we value them as great Munster men. There are always little motivational aspects to non-selections but James is a mature footballer, he is not a kid and he doesn’t need to be manipulated any way to get the best out of him in the red jersey.
“He fronts every time and if he gets an opportunity in the green jersey he will front there as well. It is just a matter of making sure he is in a good confident head-space and being able to deliver what he can for us.”
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