“THERE IS THE odd time where I’m pinching myself to say ‘Jesus, this could be the final couple of games’.”
Munster coach Rob Penney has, pretty much, accepted that his side are likely to face Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun in the RaboDirect Pro12 semi-finals. However, he is not prepared to give up a last four spot at Thomond Park without a fight. That fight will be against Ulster, on Saturday evening, as Warriors welcome Zebre to Glasgow.
“Next week could be my last [Munster game]. If we don’t do well up there [in Glasgow], then that’s it. All over.”
The New Zealander is hoping his two-year spell at the southern province will end with a league final. He can still recall taking the helm, in the midst of the retirements of Munster legends and at a time ‘when the word transition was being thrown around with gay abandon’. He leaves Munster, for Japan, with the squad ‘in great shape’ and ‘as close to a Heineken Cup final as you could get without actually getting there’.
The Munster team Penney has fashioned, he believes, will challenge for top honours for years to come. “When you lose players like Doug Howlett and Ronan O’Gara, and players of that ilk, in one hit, well… but there hasn’t been one mention [this season] of us needing to get them back, and us being no good without them,” he commented. “It’s because of the great job the other boys have done in stepping into their mammoth void.”
Penney was asked to revisit his side’s hard-fought Heineken Cup semi final exit, which he did — stating that Munster matched Toulon’s physicality but ‘let ourselves down in other areas’. He added:
The first person who has to get back on the horse after those games, and get real about the situation, is the coach. You can’t live in your cave for too long. You’ve got 30 or 40 other guys and you have to make sure they’re all right, and you’ve got another performance at the end of that week. You can’t dwell for too long. Wallowing in self-pity has never done anyone any good.”
Penney then turned the conversation to his team’s 55-12 dismantling of Edinburgh at Meggetland. He is proud of his players for ‘putting 50 points and scoring seven tries’ against Edinburgh following a six-day turnaround from the Toulon game.
Penney will not be around, next season, to enjoy the benefits of Munster primarily training at University of Limerick, rather than the “handbrake” of alternating sessions between Cork and U.L. Ending the retrospective part of the briefing, Penney said both and his squad were ‘bouncing around like a rubber ball’ and all set for the Ulster game.