Rob Penney gives players the chance to stake their claim

Munster coach rests 12 of the team that secured victory away to Perpignan

Casey Laulala: one of only three Munster players to retain his place for game against Scarlets.

Casey Laulala: one of only three Munster players to retain his place for game against Scarlets.


ARob PenneyMusgrave

Two defeats to the Llanelli outfit in his maiden season has left enough legacy that he will never forget for the duration of his term in Munster and his men, albeit much changed from that which won in Perpignan, will be fired up for this evening’s clash.

The Pro 12 leaders will be expected to remain at the top heading into the festive derbies against Connacht and Ulster, but Penney is taking little for granted. “They’re a really good side, Scarlets, we lost to them twice last year and one time in Musgrave Park, which wasn’t pretty,” he said.

“They’re a side that towards the middle and latter part of last year were one of the flying sides and they probably haven’t got the results this year that they had last year but they’re there or thereabouts and their performances have been bloody good.

“So they’ll be a very difficult side and coming of the high of the weekend we’re going to have to get the boys grounded and back to work and get their minds on the job because if they’re not it could be an embarrassing evening at Musgrave, which is not what we’re after.”

He said that the successive wins over Perpignan has left them in a good position in the Heineken Cup and he admitted they have got the rub of the green elsewhere after the opening round loss to Edinburgh.

“The win was terrific and there were other results that went our way as well our way as well, so we had the leprechaun on our shoulder this weekend, which was nice for us.”

Heroic victory
Penney has rested 12 of the team that secured that heroic victory away to Perpignan in last weekend’s Heineken Cup clash in the Stade Aimé Giral for the visit of the Scarlets. Munster’s hero that day was JJ Hanrahan as he grabbed a last gasp try to win the game and the young outhalf replaces Ian Keatley for this Pro12 clash.

Hooker Duncan Casey makes his first competitive start for the province while Gerhard van den Heever returns from injury and is named on the wing. The South African returns after breaking his hand during his debut against the Newport Gwent Dragons on November 29th.

Casey Laulala, Cathal Sheridan and BJ Botha are the only players to keep their places from the Perpignan victory. Dave Kilcoyne, Tommy O’Donnell, JJ Hanrahan and Denis Hurley all came off the bench that night and all are given starting positions. Billy Holland captains the side and he is joined in the secondrow by Ian Nagle.

Ivan Dineen partners Laulala in the centre while former Leinster winger Andrew Conway makes up the back three after recovering from a knee injury. O’Donnell, Dave O’Callaghan and CJ Stander make up a brand new backrow from the one that started in France.

Top four
Prop Alan Cotter will be hoping to make his debut off the bench while Johnny Holland will look to make his home debut after coming on as replacement in Munster’s bonus point victory away to Cardiff Blues last month. They are joined on the bench by veteran lock Donncha O’Callaghan who was also involved in last week’s 18-17 victory against Perpignan.

Scarlets beat Munster 13-6 in Musgrave Park last season and head coach Simon Easterby will be hoping for a similar result as Scarlets, currently sixth in the table, look to push for a top four place.

Penney said the changes have presented several players with the opportunity to stake a claim for permanent places and he expects them to make the most of the chance.

“We expect them to be able to slot in and do a great job for us. That’s what they’re here to do and and that’s part of growing the depth and the talent within the group, that when people get the opportunity they’ve got to front up because it’s a tough time to get selected sometimes.”