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Dublin: 16°C Tuesday 22 September 2020

'He's a talented boy, isn't he?' - Rob Penney on Keith Earls

The Munster coach is excited about what the Ireland international will bring against Edinburgh on Saturday.

Penney is refusing to underestimating Edinburgh.
Penney is refusing to underestimating Edinburgh.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

EDINBURGH ARE BOTTOM of the RaboDirect Pro12, with one win in five games and having scored just four tries so far. Defensively they have been a shambles, leaking 17 tries, including five against Munster on the opening day of the season.

Munster could be forgiven for approaching Saturday afternoon’s Heineken Cup clash against Alan Solomons’ men in Murrayfield with brazen confidence.

However, head coach Rob Penney stresses that his squad have respect for Edinburgh and says the Scottish side are likely to burst into life very soon. The New Zealander reckons the Heineken Cup could have a similarly liberating effect on Edinburgh as in 2012, when they reached the semi-finals despite an 11th-placed finish in the Pro12.

“Beware the poisoned chalice. We’re not even thinking about the hard trips they’ve had. Our focus is on what we’ve got to bring and making sure we’re in the best shape we can be, to perform as well as we can. They’ll be looking at this as a clean slate and they’ll be wanting to rip some heads off and prove to people that they’re capable.

“They’ve got a new competition to do it in, so that makes them very dangerous. They’ve got some quality people and at some point, they’ll light up. We just want to make sure that it’s not against us.”

Whatever about those public utterances, Penney must be feeling positive about Munster’s chances of opening their effort to top Pool 6 with a convincing win. Last season, the southern province secured wins at home and away to Edinburgh in the pool stages, although the sides hadn’t met in Europe before that.

Munster’s own form is good, particularly as they arrive in Scotland off the back of a morale-boosting victory against Leinster. 15 tries in their opening five Pro12 games bode well for Penney’s men, and the form of Keith Earls has been particularly satisfying for the former Canterbury coach.

imageKeith Earls was in superb form against Leinster, scoring this try. ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne.

“Yeah he’s a talented boy isn’t he? He’s already represented Ireland a number of times and the Lions. So he’s well-regarded up here and the wonderful thing about Keith at the moment is that he’s really starting to get back to the form that we know he’s capable of. He’s injury-free, he’s excited and showing his athletic skill set, which is great.”

Earls’ try against Leinster was his second in three starts, with both efforts coming when he was positioned on the wing. Indeed, his performances against Treviso and Leinster offered the latest evidence that the 26-year-old is most suited to playing on the wing.

Penney says Earls can offers Munster a lot more than just finishing ability when he is selected out wide.

“I wouldn’t think there’d be any need to change him at the moment. The way a modern winger works, they have a roving role anyway and he’s able to pop up in all sorts of situations and utilize his skill set.

“So we want that vision and that expertise in that position and you saw, with his ability to hold width the other day [against Leinster], he ended up on the back of a nice kick from Keats and got a nice try.”

So while Edinburgh will look to their powerful Scottish international wing Tim Visser to continue his prolific try-scoring rate, the Scots will need to be wary of the threat posed by a resurgent Keith Earls at Murrayfield on Saturday.

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Murray Kinsella

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