Penney gives Munster's youth a chance to shine
New Munster head coach Rob Penney has declared his intentions to give youth a chance just three days into his new position.
Last year's vastly experienced squad has been decimated by retirements and injuries and the first challenge facing the Kiwi is to create a blend of the few experienced heads left with the youthful squad he has inherited.
But he is happy with the raw materials and cannot wait to mould the players in his own way. He started work with Munster this week and linked up with new backs coach Simon Mannix and former Munster and Irish forwards coach Niall O'Donovan, who takes over from Shaun Payne as team manager.
"Having a really close look over the last few days since I arrived on Monday, I can't speak highly enough about their endeavour, their attitude to their work and their commitment to what's required," said Penney.
"It has been exceptional and both Simon and I are in awe of the effort, energy and excitement that the young blokes are bringing.
"Once you have that component, if you have the hard work ethic and a desire to do well, you are well down the path to creating some talented individuals. Now it is up to us to expand their knowledge and understanding of what they're doing and when they're doing it. Their greater knowledge of technical -- and more so tactical -- awareness is the key for us.
"We have got the work ethic and we can see that; we have got a group of men that are prepared to work hard for each other. We have come into an organisation that is in transition, but is well equipped to deal with the challenges in front of it.
"There is enough experience amongst it to create a sense of security for the younger blokes and it is just about now putting older heads on younger men's shoulders as quickly as we can through discussions and through education."
Already Penney has hit the ground running and held "robust" discussions with Irish coach Declan Kidney about the access he will have to his stars.
In a perfect world the former Canterbury boss would be able to call upon Ronan O'Gara, Paul O'Connell and Donnacha Ryan every week to aid the handover, but he is targeting a good working relationship with the Irish boss to keep everyone happy.
"It is very similar to what I have had to deal with in New Zealand. Obviously, the New Zealand model is very similar to the Irish model, so it is about building relationships. We had a great meeting yesterday and had a very open and robust discussion with Declan, which was a great start for me personally and I know Niall (O'Donovan) enjoyed the opportunity as well.
"If we can have those open channels of communication, I don't think there'll be any hiccups. It is often when you get surprises that anxiety or friction occurs. I couldn't speak highly enough about what the Irish boys said yesterday, to allow us an insight into what they are thinking."
New backs coach Mannix, who held the position with Gloucester, Sale and Racing Metro, is going into the job with no preconceived ideas or opinions.
"It's a case of developing the whole group and using what talent we have available to us, be it the incumbent or the young lads trying to force their way in," said Mannix.
"I am not going to sit here today and tell you we're going to do this or that. No, we're going to take our time, we're going to assess everything. And as Rob says, he has a style of play he wants, which I 100pc believe in."
And O'Donovan admitted that it could take some time for the new-look Munster to show their potential.
"We have lost more or less an international side here over the last two years and it has been a great side over a long period of time," he said. "But we have some smashing kids coming through and, given their chance, they'll prove just as good as the guys going out the door," said O'Donovan, who managed the Munster 'A' side for the last two seasons.
"The guys 12 years ago got a great opportunity and they took it as young fellas and they got better by being allowed play. I think, given a bit of patience with these guys, they'll probably do the same thing."