Rob Penney says respect was key to Peter O’Mahony’s elevation to Munster captaincy
Selection proved to be an ‘no brainer’ for coach
Munster coach Rob Penney: ‘It was really easy. He was to the forefront of the choice last year’. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Rob Penney thinks the respect the senior Munster players have for Peter O’Mahony was the main reason he has been asked to captain the province this year.
The 23-year-old has already captained Ireland on their summer tour to North America and filled in for the injured Doug Howlett last season, but the Munster boss said he was left with an easy decision after such positive feedback..
“It was really easy. He was to the forefront of the choice last year. He has had another year of growth, he is still a young man and is young to have this much responsibility bestowed on him, but that’s the calibre of the guy.
“In recognition of his position within this group, the respect that he has from the older guys, they have embraced him as their captain. So in the end it was a no brainer. By any means he is not the finished product yet, he’ll need a chance to grow into the role, but I think he’ll be a great captain in years to come,” said Penney.
O’Mahony won’t turn 24 until the first month of the season and despite his young age, he believes he is primed to lead Munster for the foreseeable future and had some frank discussions with some of his respected colleagues before jumping at the chance.
“That was personal to me. There’s guys who I look up to in the squad who I’d value their opinion highly. They probably would have been the first people I rang and would have tried meet face to face rather than phone call but that would have been personal for me.
“But I’m going to have to feel my way into it over the next few weeks and there it’s going to be a big challenge and probably more pressure than usual. I have plenty of fellas around me who can give me a hand if I need it.
“You’d be watching things around camp. Even here now since I’ve been announced you’d be keeping an eye out for things you wouldn’t normally be keeping an eye on. Trivial stuff, small bits around offices and that. It puts more pressure on me, but as I said I enjoy that kind of thing as well. It doesn’t really affect me to be honest.
If, as expected, Joe Schmidt selects O’Mahony for Ireland duty, Munster will have to look elsewhere for a captain during the Six Nations and autumn internationals. But coping without their captain is nothing strange for Munster who used Mick O’Driscoll as Paul O’Connell’s understudy for a couple of seasons.
“We’re going to have some deputies and we are going to grow the leadership within the group there is no doubt about it. It is one of the challenges when you have someone of Pete’s calibre, not being around as often as we’d like . . .” said Penney.
Meanwhile, Penney will be forced to plan without his three Lions, Simon Zebo, Conor Murray and Paul O’Connell until at least the fourth week of the Pro12 campaign. Murray and Zebo have both returned to training this week, while O’Connell has been given some extra time off after his wedding.
On the injury front, Felix Jones is likely to miss the first four games after his second shoulder surgery in a year, but Luke O’Dea and Keith Earls are expected to return by the end of September as they continue their recovery from respective hand and shoulder injuries.