Munster progress under Penney a key factor in decision to stay -- Ryan
DONNACHA RYAN has given Munster coach Rob Penney a ringing endorsement as he explained his reasons for turning down offers from France and England to stay with the province for three more years.
The Ireland second-row also cited the lure of further success with Ireland under Joe Schmidt as part of his thinking.
Penney is out of contract at the end of the season and has yet to agree an extension to his two-year deal despite sitting top of the Pro12 and Pool 6 of the Heineken Cup and Ryan says he is taking the province in the right direction.
The 30-year-old visited Perpignan and London Irish and also attracted interest from at least two other clubs before signing on the dotted line.
He said that he owed it to himself to investigate what else was out there, but the attraction of remaining a one-club man and the security of tenure offered by the IRFU's long-term deal swayed the Tipperary lock.
"I'm really happy with the way Rob is doing things, he's doing a great job. We've got a fantastic young group of players coming up, I think we are building something good in Munster and obviously it's home as well," Ryan told Newstalk last night.
"I think it is just trying to be in the Ireland set-up, it's very good and that's a big part of the thought process for me as well. It was interesting to see how London Irish, Perpignan and other clubs operate as well, compared to how we operate in Munster in our environment. I enjoy it.
"But I had a fantastic experience in meeting those people. It was a big thing for me to peep your head over the tree and see what else is out there. You'd be ignorant not to explore those opportunities.
"But by the same token, sometimes what you have is quite a good thing and faraway hills are greener. I'm delighted to be still in Ireland and trying to win things is the next goal as well."
Ryan, who returned to action in Saturday's heroic win over Perpignan after missing the autumn internationals, is expected to be part of the Ireland squad that gets together on Sunday as Joe Schmidt begins his preparations for the Six Nations with a three-day camp.
The resting of the internationals is expected to begin in this weekend's Pro12 games, and a number of Leinster's big guns sat out training at UCD yesterday.
Sean O'Brien is expected to miss this week's game with his dead leg, while Jack McGrath will undergo the concussion protocols and Devin Toner is also struggling.
LION HIBBARD JOINS AFOA AT GLOUCESTER
Gloucester have announced that Lions hooker Richard Hibbard will join the club next season.
The 30-year-old will move to the Aviva Premiership side from Ospreys and is another signal of Gloucester's intent following the signing of All Black World Cup-winning prop John Afoa.
Gloucester director of rugby Nigel Davies believes Hibbard's signing is another significant move for the club.
"It shows where we're heading as a club. We're building a team armed not just with power up front, but also the ability behind the scrum to play a rounded and complete game," he said.
"Richard is arguably one of the top hookers in world rugby. Clubs all around the world have been interested in signing him."