Penney looking to blend the old and the new
ROB PENNEY believes his primary task as new Munster coach will be to blend youth and experience as he bids to make them a force challenging for honours.
The New Zealander, who took up his new post this week, said they are a side in transition. But he is happy with the raw materials and cannot wait to mould the players in his own way.
And Penney said that he has already had a very good meeting with Irish coach Declan Kidney.
“We had a great meeting yesterday and had a very open and robust discussion with Declan, which was a great start for me personally. If we can have those open channels of communication, I don’t think there’ll be any hiccups. It is often when you get surprises that anxiety occurs or friction. I couldn’t speak highly enough about what the Irish boys said yesterday, to allow us an insight into what they are thinking.”
He has linked up with new backs coach Simon Mannix and former Munster and Irish forwards coach Niall O’Donovan, who takes over from Shaun Payne as team manager. They have met most of the squad and are due to meet the Irish internationals tomorrow.
“Having a really close look over the last few days since I arrived on Monday, I can’t speak highly enough about their endeavour, their attitude to their work and their commitment to what’s required. It has been exceptional and both Simon and I are in awe of the effort, energy and excitement that the young blokes are bringing,” said Penney.
“Once you have that, if you have the hard work ethic and a desire to do well, you are well down the path to creating some talented individuals. Now it is up to us to expand their knowledge and understanding of what they are doing and when they are doing it.
“Their greater knowledge of technical – and more so tactical – awareness is the key for us. We have got the work ethic and we can see that; we have got a group of men that are prepared to work hard for each other. We have come into an organisation that is in transition, but is well equipped to deal with the challenges ahead.
“There is enough experience amongst it to create a sense of security for the younger blokes and it is just about now putting older heads on younger men’s shoulders as quickly as we can through discussions and through education and ensuring that we have got total alignment across the group about how we want to play and what we are trying to achieve.”
Already Penney has had ‘robust’ discussions with Kidney about the access he will have to his star names. In a perfect world the former Canterbury boss would be able to call upon Ronan O’Gara, Paul O’Connell and Donnacha Ryan every week, but he is targeting a good working relationship with the Irish boss.
“It is very similar to what I have had to deal with in New Zealand.Obviously the New Zealand model is very similar to the Irish model, so it is about building relationships.”
Mannix, who previously held a similar position with Gloucester, Sale and Racing Metro, is going into the job with no preconceived ideas or opinions. Everyone has a clean slate.
“It’s a case of developing the whole group and using what talent we have available to us, be it the incumbent or the young lads trying to force their way in,” said Mannix.
“I am not going to sit here and tell you we’re going to do this or that. We’re going to take our time, we’re going to assess everything. And as Rob says he has a style of play he wants, which I 100 per cent believe in and that’s the way we’ll go down and we’ll make it work.”
O’Donovan admitted that it could take some time for Munster to show their potential. “We have lost more or less an international side here over the last two years, and it has been a great side over a long period of time,” he said.
“But we have some smashing kids coming through and given their chance they’ll prove just as good as the guys going out the door.”