Saturday 21 October 2017

Rob Penney may keep new signing up his sleeve

Munster could leave late arrival Van den Heever off initial European squad

Munster coach Rob Penney
Munster coach Rob Penney
Gerhard van den Heever is due to join the Munster ranks in November
Conor George

Conor George

The late arrival of Munster's new South African signing Gerhard van den Heever means that coach Rob Penney may not name him in his 38-man Heineken Cup squad, which must be submitted before September 19.

Van den Heever won't arrive until November, which means means he won't be available to play in Munster's opening two pool games – against Edinburgh and Gloucester.

That may prompt Penney to keep the 24-year-old in reserve and bring him into the squad at a later date.

Teams are allowed to replace two of their original squad during the pool stages of the competition, provided one of those players is a front-row forward and they are contracted to the club for at least a three-month spell.

Three new players can be added for the knock-out stages – one of whom must be a front-row forward – as long as they have not played in the competition for another club. That means clubs operate off a roster of 41 players in the knock-out stages.

Penney wants more latitude afforded to teams and coaches around the "tweaking" of their squads during the pool stages.

He would like to be allowed to bring additional players into the match-day squad from a data-base of registered players – "not limited to 38" – if and when they are needed.

"I think if you have parameters around when players are registered and there are parameters also about who can come in from outside, then we should be allowed to select players out of the Munster club competitions," said Penney.

"I am not looking for a situation where, for example, we could recruit someone from South Africa or New Zealand and drop them into the team. But if we have a player registered and he's starring for, say, UL Bohs then surely we should be able to promote him."

Penney admitted he was speaking from a selfish perspective because Munster have a large roster of very promising young players and he would benefit from keeping them all motivated by the possibility that they could force their way into his European plans.

Impossible

He elaborated: "If you leave (young) players out, it's a very challenging time for them, because if you don't make the original 38-man squad, it's almost impossible to get in later on.

"It means that players know from September that they're unlikely to play Heineken Cup rugby in the season.

"That's very tough on a young player and then you, as coach, have a couple of injuries and you're thinking: 'I wish I had him available'.

"You should be able to select anybody that you've got on your books at any time throughout the ERC programme based on your needs, as long as you're not, as I say, importing a lot of talent that's going to artificially affect your ability to play."

Penney will finalise his European squad during Munster's training camp in Italy between their Pro12 games against Zebre (September 13) and Treviso (September 20).

They fly to Italy the day before the clash with Zebre and will hold the camp for the week in between.

"We'll work through the details of the ERC squad that week. The good thing is that we (the coaches) won't be in two centres trying to deliberate!" he quipped, with reference to Munster's policy of using two bases in Cork and Limerick.

Penney referenced the situation Munster found themselves in last season when they earmarked a European spot for back-row forward CJ Stander who, like Van den Heever, arrived in Ireland after the first two Heineken Cup pool games, having played in the Currie Cup.

Stander never got to play in the competition. James Coughlan made a quicker than anticipated return from a serious groin injury and he took the vacant spot ahead of Stander.

Stander had the misfortune to break a bone in his hand playing for Munster against Glasgow in the Pro12 League at the start of December and would have been ruled out of the back-to-back fixtures against Saracens in any case.

Stander returned to fitness in January, but was not added to Munster's European squad.

Of course, it is not known what condition Van den Heever will arrive in after Western Province's Currie Cup campaign has finished. Penney must now decide whether to name him in the original 38-man squad or wait to add his name ahead of the back-to-back fixtures against Perpignan in December.

Irish Independent

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