Dan Sheridan/INPHO
in for a penny

Scott Penny convinced his best path to an Ireland shirt is through Leinster

Flanker faces tough competition for the No7 shirt with club and country.

DESPITE NOT MAKING it onto the field of play, Leinster flanker Scott Penny absorbed some invaluable lessons from his recent time in the Ireland squad.

A virtual ever-present for the Irish U20s in their Six Nations Grand Slam success of 2019 (scoring two tries along the way), Penny was named as an ‘A’ panellist by Andy Farrell for the recent Autumn Nations Series.

While he ultimately didn’t feature in the second string line-up that faced an All Blacks XV at the RDS on 4 November, the Dubliner trained with the main Ireland set-up ahead of their test against Fiji eight days later.

His search for a first senior international cap will continue into 2023, but Penny was pleased to get his foot in the door nonetheless.

“I hadn’t been into the senior camp before, so it was a great stepping stone and great to see what they were looking out for and have those little chats with the coaches,” Penny said at a Leinster media briefing on Monday.

“Obviously we’re pretty fond of our detail here in Leinster, but I think it’s just another level in Ireland camp. That’s why they have been so successful. Whether you’re in training or just a walk through, your detail and body language has to be on the entire time.”

Penny has pulled on the green jersey in 2022, however, having been a prominent figure for Emerging Ireland on their mini tour of South Africa. After scoring two tries in a facile 54-7 triumph over Griquas on 30 September, he also shone in a narrow 28-24 victory at the expense of the Pumas five days later.

“It was probably my first time getting proper exposure to the international coaches. Andy Farrell wasn’t on the Emerging tour, but all the other coaches were there. You’re learning what they’re looking out for and you’re learning how to play the Irish system.

“It really helped me when I was in camp the last few weeks. It wasn’t like I was just thrown in at the deep end. It was good to have that base in my head, so when I came into camp I was ready. I knew what I needed to do.”

Given he is in direct competition with newly-crowned World Rugby Player of the Year Josh van der Flier and Will Connors (when fit) for the number seven spot in Leinster, there have been suggestions that Penny might improve his chances of international selection by making a switch to one of Ireland’s other provinces.

scott-penny-and-garry-ringrose Dan Sheridan / INPHO Penny with Garry Ringrose in Irish camp. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Yet, the 23-year-old former St Michael’s College student doesn’t see things that way.

“If you look at the Irish starting back-row, bar Peter O’Mahony, they’re all in Leinster. So if my goal is to play for Ireland I’ve got to get ahead of them somehow and I may as well get ahead of them in Leinster if it’s going to happen.”

Indeed, Penny doesn’t have far to look for an example of how someone can suddenly be propelled into the test spotlight. At the beginning of last week, Ross Byrne was due to aid Leinster in their preparation for a friendly with Chile and an eventual return to the United Rugby Championship against Glasgow Warriors this coming Saturday.

Instead, the fly-half was called into the Ireland camp as cover ahead of last weekend’s encounter with Australia and was then added to the bench after Jonathan Sexton pulled up with an injury minutes before kick-off in the Aviva.

Thrust into the action on 72 minutes for his first international appearance in just under 20 months, Byrne knocked a tricky penalty between the posts to guide Ireland towards a 13-10 win over the Wallabies.

“You’ve just got to be ready for anything. Whether it’s in here or in Ireland. If you’re not involved or if you’re on the bench, you’ve got to prepare like you are. Anything can happen in the warm-up just before the game, as you saw with Johnny. Or even at the start of the week there might be an injury so you’ve just got to be ready to go at any stage,” Penny added.

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