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Penney: ‘Bloody tough’ Heineken Cup trials start now
The Munster boss has called on his young players to ‘put their hand up for selection’ as the southern province head into a run of home fixtures.

A FULL THREE weeks after scraping past Cardiff Blues in Wales, Munster are back in action this evening against the Llanelli Scarlets.

With the internationals now behind us and second seed status secured, it is the Heineken Cup which once again looms large on the oval ball’s horizon.

Today, head coach Rob Penney is calling on his squad to give him a selection headache for the back-to-back encounters with a hard-hitting Premiership side.

“Our first game against Saracens is over at Thomond in three weeks,” Penney told RedFM, “so we’ve got two games – Scarlets and Glasgow – both at home, so we’ve got a great run in with three weeks to work out our final crop for the ERC game a little later on.”

With a tough month on the way, the Kiwi was happy for a week’s ‘refreshing’ break followed by some quality time on the training field. Without an imminent fixture to worry about last week, he was able to further drill his squad to their new brand of rugby.

“It’s been good preparation time and reflection time that has been able to give us an opportunity to delve deeper into some of the issues we’ve been having, so it’s been great.”

Equally great for Penney is the opportunity to showcase Munster’s wares on home soil for three consecutive weeks. He shrugs off the down sides of travelling, but there is little doubt that playing away from home stunts the opportunity to fully stretch the play and show off his Canterbury ethos.

“Not having a trip is always a bonus, but we’re used to travelling. With the two centres we’re travelling every other day anyway. Travel can be used as an excuse and we don’t want to bring that up, but having three home games at this stage of the year is great for us.”

Today, against a Scarlets side he describes as ‘pretty similar’ to his own reds, Penney will defend a proud unbeaten run in Cork stretching back to 2008 when Declan Kidney lost his final home game in charge before going on to lift the Heineken Cup.

Asked what that particular anomaly means to him he responds: ”Well, that’s a great stat,” with a bemused smile, adding: ”Not really. Just due to the fact that every team is different.

“But we’re at home and we’re proud to be at home. Hopefully we’re bloody tough on Sunday so that Scarlets will know they’ve got a game on their hands.”

Penney has been able to name a strong back-line with Felix Jones, Doug Howlett, Casey Laulala and James Downey all behind Ian Keatley.

‘Wait and see’

In the pack, however, he has resisted the urge to throw CJ Stander straight into the mix, tantalisingly saying we will ‘have to wait and see’ what the South African back row is capable of.

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As Marcus Horan, BJ Botha, Peter Stringer and Damien Varley will take up a seat on the replacements bench alongside the new recruit, Penney has asked some less experienced heads to step up and make a case for inclusion when the big days come around.

“It’s a great opportunity for young guys to put their hand up on both ends.

“It should be really exciting. I think (Scarlets) been one of the teams that have got out of the blocks quickly and used the ball well and looking to play a lot of rugby.

“It should be a really good game at Musgrave Park in Cork.”

Rob Penney was speaking to RedFM’s Big Red Bench, follow them on Twitter – @BigRedBench

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