Penney reveals discussions ongoing with referee officials after high penalty count


Munster coach Rob Penney has revealed there are ongoing discussions this week with referee officials in a bid to ensure their penalty concession rate is much lower next Sunday against Saracens.

Munster’s Heineken Cup aspirations almost came undone at Thomond Park on Saturday when stand-in French referee Pascal Gauzere pinged them for 17 penalties and three free-kicks.

Gauzere will be assistant referee on Sunday at Vicarage Road where another French official, Jerome Garces, will take charge of the decisive pool one game.

Penney says Munster have worked hard on their discipline – they conceded four penalties the previous week against Glasgow – and this week had gone through the official channels to seek clarification from the referee officials.

“We’ve had some really good correspondence, we’ve had some really good feedback around last week. For me it’s about approaching this game in a really positive manner with the officials and ensuring they are fully aware of the areas of the game we might have some concerns with and that they are able to converse with us about areas of the game they have concerns with us in.

“We go into the match really clear and there will be no ability to get hijacked by interpretations and rulings. We’ve got to be really careful we get our backyard right before we start looking over the fence.

Speak to referee

“Later in the week, if there is an opportunity to speak directly with the referee, if he is comfortable to do that, then it’s something we may do,” said Penney.

The Munster coach said he did not think there would be any repercussions about their approach, given Gauzere will be one of the assistant referees.

“I think the only thing that would concern me is if they weren’t open-minded enough to accept the discussion around the things concerning last week.

“That could set up a little poison spiral among that group of officials that would be dangerous. Hopefully through the right channels we are able to get a good message across and they are open-minded to consider the message.

“I’m sure they will be. They are professional men in a professional environment and they want to do the right thing by the game and so hopefully we can achieve a really positive outcome with some good positive discussions this week.”

Meanwhile, Penney expects Ronan O’Gara to be fully fit for the trip to Watford after a back injury scare which necessitated JJ Hanrahan being flown home from Rotherham as a precaution. But there are concerns about Keith Earls, Simon Zebo and Felix Jones, all of whom were bothered by “bumps and bruises”, although the type or scale of their injuries were not disclosed.

Penney confirms Tommy O’Donnell will be available again this weekend and Niall Ronan and Seán Dougal will be in contention after recovering from injury.

Main concerns

Munster’s other main concerns surround tighthead prop BJ Botha and flanker Dave O’Callaghan, but Penney is hopeful they will be available.

“I can’t clarify 100 per cent because we’re waiting until the end of the week. We have a number of bumps and bruises. We’re just waiting on the expertise from the medical staff, confirming players available and so forth,” added Penney.

He knows there is the potential for a backlash on Sunday but he believes they are in a strong position going into this encounter.

“The win last week gave us the opportunity to be masters of our own destiny, which is where you want to be. I think they’ll be very tough at home this week for those reasons. They’ve a lot of pride and they’ll be determined not to let something like that happen to them again. So there will be some challenges for us. But we’re improving and building confidence too. There’ll be fireworks again.”

Headhunting Henshaw: Connacht angry

Connacht’s anger with Leinster over Mike McCarthy’s move has been exacerbated by an attempt by Munster and Ulster to sign teenage sensation Robbie Henshaw.

The 19-year old has been one of the finds of the season, with Connacht coach Eric Elwood tipping him as a future Ireland international shortly after he made his debut at the outset of the campaign.

Henshaw, who was playing schools rugby six months ago, has played in every game for Connacht this season and has nailed down the fullback spot ahead of the province’s captain Gavin Duffy.
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