Ryan deal proves we're on right track -- Penney
Coach Rob Penney is hopeful of making it a very happy Christmas for Munster fans by maintaining their challenge for glory on two fronts.
The Reds go into the Christmas series of games leading the RaboDirect Pro12 and with Heineken Cup quarter-final qualification in sight. And Penney wants them to maintain that push for silverware, boosted by the commitment of several players to new contracts.
Penney said he was delighted to secure the services of Donnacha Ryan for another three years as he seeks to build a winning squad around the Tipperary man. Penney was also full of praise for the big second-row for the impact he had against Perpignan last week after two months on the treatment table.
Ryan (pictured) is expected to play a large role in Munster's Christmas period as he seeks a return to full fitness along with Tommy O'Donnell, and Penney said nailing them down to new deals is a ringing endorsement of the work that's being put in by everyone in the province.
"It's fantastic to have Donnacha about. He's a fantastic guy, a big heart-and-soul man and a critical part of this group," said Penney. "He has a massive future with Irish rugby and he'll be a great asset.
"For him to come and do what he did for 65 minutes the other day was really pleasing. He's always very self-critical but he did some really good things and he will get better. It's really pleasing to have somebody of his calibre committing to the organisation. With Conor Murray and Tommy O'Donnell, Peter O'Mahony and all the young blokes committing their futures here, it's a great endorsement of what's happening."
And, according to Penney, he will need to put out a very strong side right through the Christmas period if they are to continue their rich vein of form.
"Scarlets are a top side and we will have to be at our best to take the win from there. And we never get anything easy from Connacht or Ulster," he said. "We will be missing a few of the squad through the IRFU's player management programme, but it is a great chance for some of the other squad members to put their hand up."