Penney targeting a return to the top four


Munster coach Rob Penney is hopeful their disappointing performance in last season’s Pro12 competition will drive them to silverware this year. He said he wants them to turn that disappointment into a motivating factor.

Penney is expecting his side to make the top four at the end of the season after they missed out on the semi-finals for the first time in six years – but he agreed they will need to hit the ground running to get there.

Munster get their campaign underway against Edinburgh on Saturday at Musgrave Park and he says a win at the weekend will leave them in good stead to shake off last season’s woes.

The capacity
“We actually put some work in them because we wanted to be better this year but the disappointment never goes. . . . If you don’t succeed in the previous campaign that you can never get rid of it,” said Penney.

“I hate that feeling, you’re unsettled, you’re never able to relax because there’s a gnawing away at you. I had it, all the squad had it the way we didn’t achieve the way we had the capacity to.

“It will be a motivating and driving force but I’ve got a lot of faith in this group. If we can produce a reflection of what they’ve put in and are producing up until now through the Rabo I think we’ll be there when the whips are cracking at the end of the season.”

Meanwhile, the side’s preparation for their season opener has suffered a setback with new signing Andrew Conway ruled out because of a thigh injury. A dead leg sustained on his Thomond Park debut has failed to clear up.

Conway was drafted in to take over the right wing berth from the retired Dougie Howlett and the former Leinster flyer scored a try on his first appearance for Munster. But the injury will now delay his competitive bow.

“He got a bad knock against Gloucester at Thomond last Saturday week ago,” said Penney. “It just hasn’t recovered as well as we would have liked or as well as we anticipated so he is not available this week . .”

The pre-season jinx has also ruled BJ Botha out with the former Springbok set to miss a minimum four weeks with a grade two medial ligament strain in his knee. Penney conceded Botha is now a big doubt for their Pro12 clash with Leinster and the following two weeks’ games in the Heineken Cup against Edinburgh and Gloucester.