Rob Penney has no doubt Mike Sherry will soon be a player the Ireland management will find too difficult to ignore.
While Leinster’s newly-Irish qualified hooker Richardt Strauss was not only learning the lines to Amhrán na bhFiann but repaying the faith shown in him by Declan Kidney during last month’s Guinness Series, his Munster counterpart was getting his head down, learning the value of patience and proving his worth to new provincial bosses.
Despite an emergency call-up to the Ireland squad at last year’s World Cup and having toured with the national side in New Zealand during the summer, Sherry has still not seen a minute of Test action and was overlooked by Kidney for the autumn internationals in favour of Strauss.
Still 24, the Limerick hooker has plenty of time to represent his country and Penney, for one, believes Sherry, his preferred starter this evening for the Heineken Cup home pool game with Saracens, is making the necessary progress.
“He’s going through a good development phase,” Penney told the Irish Examiner. “We’ve got some good hookers here, Damien Varley is also going well when he gets an opportunity, so both of them are going toe to toe.
“But Mike’s maturity and his development has been noted and he’ll be forcing the issue at international level very soon.”
Asked if Sherry was unlucky not to get a look in with Ireland during November, the Munster head coach said: “You could say that about a number of people but he’s just got to keep performing and keep putting consistent performances together back to back and they won’t be able to leave him out.”
Penney called Sherry’s attitude “terrific” and the hooker believes he has benefited from the former Canterbury coach’s vision.
“Yeah, definitely,” Sherry said. “It’s new, like, I haven’t spent too much time out on the wing before and sometimes you think you’re not working, which was a big concern of mine at the start of the year.
“Munster is obviously based on a huge work rate and that was one of the points I made to Rob, that sometimes I was kind of panicking if I hadn’t hit a ruck in about four or five phases.
“But he just said, ‘bide your time, the ball will come to you’, and sometimes you can work back in or fellas can go out wide and we’ve interlinked a bit more. We’re not as rigid as we were at the start of the year.”
Sherry’s confidence will extend to his meeting with this evening’s opposite number Schalk Brits, the Saracens and former Boks hooker who got the nod to start over his compatriot and World Cup-winning captain John Smit.
“Brits is everywhere, he’s around the pitch, playing full-back, scrum-half, out-half, so he’s excellent in all areas. John Smit obviously brings a huge set-piece game. He’s built like a prop, he’s played prop internationally so I think his scrummaging is obviously a big area for him. And their lineout is the best in the competition. So obviously both of them can throw the ball. I’d be a big fan of [Smit] as a player and Schalk Brits as well... so whoever they play it’s going to be a very big challenge for myself and ‘Varls’ but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to and to see what they do up close, see if we can match them.”
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