Rob Penney’s tenure as Munster’s head coach is likely to extend until at least the end of the 2014/’15 season and maybe more with the New Zealander announcing last night that negotiations are “progressing nicely”.
Penney’s original two-year contract is due to expire in June and he wants to remain for the following twelve months to complete the programme he set out on his arrival in 2011. His case is considerably strengthened with Munster enjoying a seven point advantage at the top of the Rabo Pro 12 league and also in a very strong position to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup.
“The organisation has been great to deal with”, he stressed at the end of yesterday’s squad session at UL. “I cannot speak highly enough about their administration and the people behind the scenes. It’s been great and we’re still working through it.”
The situation regarding Paul O’Connell’s future remains unclear but once again Penney believes there is no way the team’s talisman will be allowed to leave.
“Obviously we’re desperately keen to make sure he stays here”, said Penney. “Given the guy’s presence and what he has given to this organisation, it would be unheard of him disappearing anywhere else.”
While Penney stressed that all minds were focused entirely on Friday’s Rabo 12 clash with Ulster at Ravenhill, he did give an assessment of the prospects of three key players returning from injury.
“Simon Zebo will, hopefully, be available by the end of next week”, he commented.
“That would make him available for Gloucester but it’s been a long time since he played any footy. Conor Murray is probably similar, there’s a glimmer of hope. Let’s say neither has been ruled out. I’m not sure about Donnacha Ryan, possibly two weeks later and he will be ready for the Six Nations.”
The confirmation that Sean O’Brien was ruled out of the first three matches in the Six Nations Championship had filtered through to the Munster camp.
Penney described it as “a tragedy because Sean has been in such good form.”
However, the Kiwi observed: “Ireland are lucky to have guys like our own Tommy O’Donnell and a couple of other lads around the country performing so well.”
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