Not a pretty picture for Penney as Sherry and Murray struggle
Mike Sherry and Conor Murray were unable to train with Munster yesterday and remain doubts for their must-win trek to Edinburgh on Sunday. The athletic Sherry has emulated Murray in becoming an energising part of the team this season, though of the two one imagines that the ankle injury Sherry was unable to run off in the first half against Cardiff last Saturday is still of greater source of concern than Murray’s busted lip.
That said, Rob Penney was not painting a pretty picture for either of them yesterday. “Mike is still in doubt and we won’t know until the last minute whether he is okay to take his place in the group.
“Conor Murray is similar, he obviously got quite bad stitches to the mouth internally and externally, which is not the most healthy spot and the mouth can get infected quite easily, so he is taking it very slowly at the moment and we won’t know till the end of the week where he is at.”
Stephen Archer’s badly bruised quadriceps also sidelined him from training, although Penney anticipated the tighthead prop being back in the mix by Friday, while Simon Zebo, Donncha O’Callaghan, Peter O’Mahony and BJ Botha are all due to return to the starting line-up, and Munster will be grateful for all the positive energy they can garner after last Saturday’s dismal defeat at home to Cardiff.
“I’ve had my head in my hands a couple of times, no doubt about it, but then I didn’t sleep at all well on Saturday night. I watched the game over and over again because I’m the one that questions myself more than anybody about the direction and the opportunities. Are they false or are they real?”
Lift his spirits
Sunday morning session with the Clongowes Wood squad in Fota Island helped lift his spirits, and Penney also accepted that there had to be more of a tactical mix to their game compared with last Saturday, when they reverted to a lateral, touchline-running game with little variety and 29 errors by their own count, as they also revived their earlier season habit of running on to the touchline.
Citing the varied second-half approach, which yielded a bonus-point win in round two at home to Edinburgh, Penney said: “I think that goes without saying, yeah. And I think it’s an amalgamation, and it’s always been an amalgamation, of strategies to allow the players to take their opportunities as they unfold.
“If you remember, I think it might have been our last try, Damien might have scored it off a maul. But it started with a great little counter-attack from our own 22 when Ian Keatley made a nice run and Paddy Butler had the ball through a hole, which was indicative of a philosophy of hitting the ball in space and creating opportunities when they arise, and seeing that.
“And then on the back of some pressure we created a line-out deep in their 22 and, if you like, more traditionally, if that’s the right term, created a great maul off the back of that and scored a great try. But we were endeavouring to do a mixture of that, we’ve endeavoured to do a mixture of that every time we’ve played. So it’s every game that’s a balancing act and normally the rewards are reaped at the end of a game if you’re able to put pressure on, build pressure.”
Detecting a shift
Detecting a shift this week and the benefits of an eight-day turnaround, he vowed, with a smile: “I’m really confident that the space and opportunities that they’re not taking will be taken at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later.”
They’ll need to. Thus far, it’s been a campaign of missed opportunities for Munster, though it could be that they mightn’t need a bonus point in Murrayfield, especially if Racing turn over Saracens in front of a 35,000 capacity crowd in Nantes to make their visit to Thomond on Sunday week a pool decider.
Had that been the case, they would now effectively be in pole position, as they would be level with Saracens on 12 points but with a superior head-to-head record.
Either way, Penney won’t be encumbering his team with any such fanciful notions from the kick-off. “No, no. The beauty about this week is that if we win we have an opportunity at Thomond next week to be masters of our own destiny. So we just deal with trying to get the result.”