Penney plays down O’Connell incident before confirmation filters through
Big worries about Donncha O’Callaghan being available for Clermont tie
Munster head coach Rob Penney speaks to reporters yesterday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
If Munster coach Rob Penney was worried that Paul O’Connell was about to be cited for his clumsy kick on Dave Kearney, then his concerns were well disguised when they returned to training at University of Limerick yesterday morning.
It would have been a cruel twist if O’Connell’s months of rehab from a back injury were all in vain if he was ruled out through a suspension, but Penney never thought for a moment that his star player was in danger.
Penney, speaking before official confirmation came through that O’Connell was in the clear and that citing officer Eddie Walsh did not find anything which warranted further investigation, played down the incident. “It was one of those incidents. Footie is a dynamic game and from our perspective absolutely nothing to answer for. You slow things down and you look in real detail and they always look worse.
“Numerous incidents, if you take them in isolation and slow them right down and this is one of those ones where there is nothing really to be concerned about,” he said.
Munster will continue their preparations for the showdown with Clermont when they travel to play the Dragons in Newport on Friday night. Penney is hoping to use the game to ease players back from injury but he does not know at this stage if Keith Earls or Doug Howlett will be available for this one.
“Earlsie is making progress. We were hopeful he would have been available last weekend but he just didn’t come through training. He’s close but we’ll know more at the end of the week. Doug Howlett’s trying hard, making slow progress I’d have to say, so that’s still right up there,” said Penney.
There is also continued concern about Donncha O’Callaghan being available for the Clermont game, having picked up a knee injury which forced him to go off against Leinster on Saturday. “Donncha O’Callaghan is never injured and for him to sustain the injury he’s got is very frustrating. We’ll get another report by Wednesday or Thursday.
“Donncha has a knee injury, but nothing structural I understand. But it’s one of those ones it could be two weeks it could be one. He just has to see the specialist at this stage.”
Meanwhile, Penney has backed Joe Schmidt for the Irish job and believes his fellow Kiwi will make a great national coach. “He has the experience here now, knows the place intimately. There will be a number of good candidates putting their hand up but I would be really supportive of Joe and his management group, as I would be of anyone that gets the Irish job.
“It is critical that the provinces help work with the international sector but I know what Joe would bring would be very positive for the environment here in Munster I’m sure.”
Penney saw his side come off second best in their latest battle with Leinster but he is pleased with the way they’re progressing. “If it doesn’t work here I won’t be here. That is the obvious answer. But I really believe it is the right thing and the right thing for Irish rugby to challenge the boys a few different ways.”