Saturday 21 October 2017

Rob Penney: 'It could be the last time I walk out at Thomond'

Munster head coach Rob Penney speaks to reporters during a squad press briefing ahead of their Celtic League game against Ulster on Saturday.
Munster head coach Rob Penney speaks to reporters during a squad press briefing ahead of their Celtic League game against Ulster on Saturday.

Rob Penney

After last weekend's morale-boosting victory over in Edinburgh, we are all looking forward to getting stuck into the last few weeks of the season.

It was important for us to go to Scotland and perform well and take the win and we did that. Seven tries was a deserved reward for the way we played and to come home with another five points in the bag was terrific.

After making 11 changes from the previous week's defeat in Marseille, I was very happy with how all of the 23 players responded to that adversity. And to still have a small chance of earning a home semi-final at Thomond Park really gives us a target tomorrow against Ulster.

Considering the good run of results that Glasgow Warriors have put together to get themselves into second place, we are not expecting them to ease off against Zebre, especially considering their stunning victory against Ospreys last week.

But if we can end the regular season on a high and beat Ulster we will have some chance of taking advantage of any Glasgow slip up – if it does arise.

However, we realise that will be very difficult to achieve against this Ulster team. I have been impressed with them all season and, as usual, it will be a tricky night at the office.

Earlier this season we had a right battle in Ravenhill and in the end they edged the win despite us running in three tries to their two. Looking back even further, we lost by a point in Ravenhill in 2013, but had a good win at Thomond Park in the Rabo. There has never been too much between the sides and I'm sure tomorrow will be no different.

PASSION

A real point of note for me since I came to Munster has been the passion and determination shown to win the inter-provincial derbies. We've had some rip-roaring games with all three of the home provinces in the last couple of years and the parochial nature of the regions means there is immense pride in each respective shirt.

As a result, I am thrilled to see three of the four Irish provinces making up the top four of the Pro12, it's indicative of the quality and development of the game in Ireland. And if we are to go all the way and win the competition, we'll have at least one more to look forward to after Ulster tomorrow.

We will have one eye on our semi-final when we select our team to face Ulster, but we are keen to retain the momentum we gathered last weekend in Edinburgh, while working a few guys back into the fold at the same time. The guys who sat out last weekend are very keen to get back into the team, while there are plenty of others waiting in the wings, ready to take their chance like so many did last week.

If we don't manage to overcome the odds and gain a home semi-final it will be the last time that a few of our guys, both players and management, get to walk out on Thomond Park in front of our loyal support. It will be a sad occasion for all of us, but we still have plenty of talking to do on the park before the season closes.

I was very happy to see Dave Kilcoyne and Casey Laulala named in the Pro12 Dream Team this week. It is great personal reward for all the hard work and fine displays they have put in this season. 'Killer' has really worked diligently on growing his game and it is easy to see he has achieved that.

Casey is another guy who is fully merited in receiving this award: he has been a terrific signing for Munster and he will be missed hugely when he leaves at the end of the season. Well done to both of them.

Right now, we are focused on collective achievements. We have a great group of players here and they have worked extremely hard all season to earn this top-four finish.

That semi-final place is secure, but we are very determined to put in a good performance tomorrow against Ulster and to carry that form into the knock-out stages.

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