MUNSTER'S incoming All Blacks centre Casey Laulala believes his old boss Rob Penney can "turn the province around" when he takes over as coach next season.
Laulala, who is joining Munster from Cardiff, played under Penney at Canterbury and welcomed yesterday's announcement that the 48-year-old four-time ITM Cup winner will be replacing Tony McGahan as head coach.
"Rob Penney will be great. He'll do an amazing job, full of ideas. He will turn things around," said Laulala, capped twice for New Zealand against Ireland in 2006, adding: "I can say all good things but at the end of the day, we will be judged on how we do next year."
After failing to qualify from their Heineken Cup pool last season, Munster were beaten at Thomond Park for only the second time in the Heineken Cup when Ulster won their quarter-final clash last month.
With Ulster and Leinster contesting an all-Ireland Heineken Cup final at Twickenham on May 19, Penney has been charged with bringing the province back up the Irish pecking order. He has been given a two-year deal, with Anthony Foley continuing as forwards coach and the rest of the backroom team to be confirmed.
Foley's former Munster and Ireland team-mate Keith Wood said he will be disappointed to have been overlooked for the top job.
"He has to be disappointed," Wood said. "It is one of the biggest jobs in rugby. And for an Irish player and a Munster man, of course he will be. But he is also pragmatic and will want to do the best job he can for the head coach and make certain that Munster can get back on top."
Ex-Leinster and Ireland winger Shane Horgan backed Penney's appointment as a "shrewd" move and championed Ronan O'Gara for a potential role as backs coach.
"If he was closer to finishing off, I would suggest Ronan would be a great man for that," said Horgan. "I would not rule out Ronan playing a big role as it is."