independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Keatley hopes club displays can prove his worth to Kidney

As Ian Keatley attempted to absorb his disappointment at not being involved in Ireland's November series, head coach Declan Kidney picked up the phone and offered him a challenge.

"Declan has been on to me," Keatley revealed ahead of this evening's Pro12 visit of Glasgow to Thomond Park. "He's just been telling me to keep working hard."

Last weekend, Keatley worked hard but was swamped amidst the deluge at Musgrave Park – this week his dubious reward is to be returned to bench duty, with Ronan O'Gara assuming his out-half role while Felix Jones plays at full-back.

In truth, Keatley can have little complaint; afforded the glimmer of a chance to grab a firm hold of the out-half berth under Munster boss Rob Penney's reign this season, his efforts have been less than convincing, his frustration compounded by the fact that O'Gara has not hit top form in red.

His primary concern may soon become ensuring that he remains a relevance to the match-day squad as Castleisland sensation JJ Hanrahan is imperceptibly breathing down his neck; pretty soon Penney may have to decide on which man represents the best options for the team's future.

Keatley must aim to press his case as strenuously – and as soon – as possible. "I was disappointed," said Keatley of his exclusion from Kidney's November plans.

"It gets frustrating when you think you're playing well but I'll keep the head down. I think if you're winning with your club you're going to start getting more recognition.

"You see the Ulster lads doing very well in the league. They're playing some good rugby and they're getting recognition for it."

Being excluded from Penney's plans this week and, one presumes, remaining there over the next fortnight – unless the incumbents O'Gara and Jones turn in a pair of shockers this evening – won't have been part of the script as he sat down to chow with the media this week.

"I think it's a good problem for Rob to have so many different players in so many different positions," he said.

"They can all stand up and there's even players who haven't got a chance yet who are champing at the bit to step up.

"I'm just delighted to be playing anywhere and I want to play every week. Most lads want to play every week and whether I play 12, 15 or 10, I'll play to the best of my ability. We were disappointed with not getting a win last weekend, because on form we were going well."

Glasgow, who themselves lost in a torrential downpour on home turf last weekend, will be eager to pick up the thread of the six-game unbeaten run they had embarked upon before being downed by Leinster last weekend.

"Obviously it's crucial to win any week," said Keatley. "Scarlets was one of those games and unfortunately we missed out there but it's another home game at Thomond and we expect to win our home games. Leading into the Heineken Cup that would take care of itself.

TARGET

"The next few Pro12 games are important, they certainly are. We've set a target of being in the top four and hopefully getting a home draw for the semi-final.

"But we've got to show the strength that we need because there are so many good teams out there and it's very competitive. It's a big one this weekend because we lost last time out. Scarlets are ahead of us and so are Glasgow and when you're playing the teams around you, they're must-win games."

Munster have won their last five meetings with the Scots, who haven't won in Limerick for six years and can boast just one win on Irish soil from their last 14 visits.

Out-half Duncan Weir returns from injury as Glasgow Warriors make nine changes. Scotland internationals Stuart Hogg, Ryan Grant, Al Kellock, Sean Lamont, John Barclay, Henry Pyrgos and Dougie Hall all return to boost their challenge.

Munster have no late injury worries from the team named two days ago and they are fancied to atone for last week's slip-up as they return to Limerick.

Verdict: Munster

Munster – F Jones; D Howlett (capt), K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; R O'Gara, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D O'Callaghan, D Ryan; CJ Stander, T O'Donnell, J Coughlan. Reps: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, B Holland, P Butler, P Stringer, I Keatley, C Laulala.

Glasgow Warriors – P Murchie; S Lamont, S Hogg, P Horne, DTH Van Der Merwe; D Weir, H Pyrgos; R Grant, D Hall, M Cusack; T Swinson, A Kellock (capt); R Harley, J Barclay, R Wilson. Reps: P MacArthur, M Low, G Reid, J Strauss, J Eddie, N Matawalu, S Wight, B McGuigan.

Ref – I Davies (WRU).

Munster v Glasgow

Live, TG4, 7.45

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