Sunday 22 April 2018

European final top priority as Munster look to roar back under Penney

Hugh Farrelly

MUNSTER are confident Rob Penney can lead them to the Heineken Cup final in Dublin next year, while their new coach believes his move to the Irish province is an "awesome opportunity."

Penney has been charged with revitalising the province after the two-times European champions failed to make the last four of the competition for the last two seasons, with Ulster and Leinster forging ahead and contesting this year's final in two weeks' time.

However, Munster chief executive Garret Fitzgerald believes the New Zealander can bring Munster back to the decider next year and has dismissed talk of a "transition period."

"People have said to me 'you lack ambition' and 'you're third province and you could be fourth province,' but the way I answer is that the Heineken Cup final is on in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin next year and that's where we want to be," said Fitzgerald.

"We were going through a transition when we won the Magner's League last season and when we won (the Heineken Cup) in 2008, so I don't think you can use that as an excuse."

Meanwhile, after being consistently passed over for a job in Super Rugby, Canterbury coach Penney is thrilled to get his chance with the European giants.

"It is an awesome opportunity," said Penney yesterday. "If you look at European clubs you would want to align with, Munster is certainly one of them. I am hopeful of being able to add value and really keen to develop the Irish boys.

"You can lay a foundation for the first couple of years and it tends to bear fruit after three or four."

Munster, who announced yesterday that 35-year-old flanker David Wallace has been forced to retire due to injury, take on Ulster in their final regular season Pro12 match at Thomond Park tomorrow as they seek to retain their league title.

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