Hoping that the Penney drops for Munster
Should Munster fail to qualify from Pool One after tomorrow’s lunch-time showdown with Racing Metro it means, this time, that no miracle has occurred on sacred ground.
The mortal wounds were inflicted in October and December. The focus will inevitably switch to the players’ initial and understandable blind faith in Rob Penney’s Canterbury blueprint.
It was put to Anthony Foley – who runs the lineout in Munster but defence for Ireland – this week that their current perilous position is mainly due to the failure to build upon a lead that was so impressively erected in Paris in round one.
A day when Paul O’Connell took the field. “That and then trying to play too much rugby in Vicarage Road,” agreed Foley, in reference to their second European defeat on the road.
“When you look at what Saracens tried to do to us; went to two in the lineout and kicked the leather off it. Even their try came from a little dabble through.
“The issue in that game for us, maybe we didn’t just tuck it up a bit more and grind out the three, six, nine (points). That and probably the last five minutes in Paris when we got ourselves into a position to win the game and unfortunately we gave them two kickable penalties and they executed that.”
Basically, at Vicarage Road Munster played to their new system. It didn’t work. Since December there was been a noticeable slump just when they were expected to have bedded in the Penney way.
So they returned to what they do best – confrontation. This is not a regression back to the Munster of pre-law changes in 2008 but something looking more like the direct approach employed under Tony McGahan whenever the going got tough.
Munster have, bar one season under McGahan, qualified from their pool, but it has been five long years of change since they last conquered Europe.
“In this group, so far, we’ve been in a position to win all five games,” Foley continued. “You think back to last year, we were 20-all in Castres and two points down in Thomond Park against Northampton and we managed to get two drop goals. There isn’t a massive difference from last year when we managed to get through the group stages unbeaten.
“If we win on Sunday and get a quarter-final it will be looked upon as success, just as it was last year.”
The Munster way
Penney must be sick hearing about how things used to be done in Munster. An honest on-the-record appraisal of the Cork-Limerick dual training centres would also be interesting.