Munster head coach Rob Penney has urged hooker Damien Varley to keep pushing for a place in Joe Schmidt’s Ireland set-up following his man of the match performance against Ospreys at the weekend.
Varley, 30, won his second and most recent cap against Argentina during the autumn international window three years ago and featured in a number of Declan Kidney’s squads since, joining the 2011 World Cup squad as injury cover and featuring for the Wolfhounds last January.
The former Wasps hooker has been overlooked by new head coach Schmidt for both his training camp in September and the squad for this month’s Guinness Series, with provincial team-mate Mike Sherry named instead, alongside Rory Best and Sean Cronin.
Yet Penney believes Varley should not give up the fight.
“He’s a fine player,” the Munster head coach said. “Varls is totally committed to this group and he’s got a deep desire to play for Ireland and he knows he’s got to be a standout player when the others are away because he’s just got to keep knocking at the door. And if there’s an injury, there’s no better man. He’s just got to keep performing.”
Nor does Varley believes his international career is over.
“Absolutely not. No,” the hooker said. “It is still something I hope for but at the end of the day, it’s a man’s opinion as to how you are performing. I am very happy with the way I’m playing and the performances I put in.
“Over the next phase I’ll make another stake for it and see if something for the Six Nations, that Joe might pick me.”
Varley has been sharing the hooking duties at Munster with Sherry but is unsure whether the rotation system is hindering his Ireland prospects.
“You’d have to ask Joe that, I don’t know. Mike is happy how he is playing and I’m happy with how I’m playing. At the end of the day it’s Joe’s decision as to who he’s going to pick.
“I think we are all biased towards ourselves and I’ll back myself and Mike will back himself. I think from Rob [Penney’s] point of view it’s about picking the players for any certain day. It’s a tight competition between myself and Mike.”
In the meantime, as Ireland prepare to face Samoa at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, Varley will enjoy some time off before RaboDirect Pro12 leaders Munster begin preparations for two testing encounters in Wales, against Cardiff Blues on November 23 and six days later at the Dragons in Newport.
“It’s nice to have a few days off to relax a little bit,” Varley said.
“Obviously it gives us time to regroup and focus for the upcoming weeks, which in the lead-up to Christmas will be pivotal for the rest of our season. It gives us good time to reflect and prepare for the next phase.”
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