Monday 19 February 2018

European upheaval won't see Irish teams left in cold – Penney

Munster head coach Rob Penney
Munster head coach Rob Penney

Declan Rooney

Munster coach Rob Penney has admitted that the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Heineken Cup could potentially affect their bargaining power when trying to sign up their big-name players.

Concerns surrounding the future of Irish teams in European rugby have surfaced after the four Welsh regions decided to back the proposed Rugby Champions Cup.

The likes of Conor Murray, Donnacha Ryan and Paul O'Connell are out of contract next summer, but Penney is confident that the Irish provinces will not be left behind and that there is no immediate worry about nailing players down to new deals.

"Look, I haven't looked too far into it, but that's obviously a pretty big statement," he said. "No, not at this point (there is no worry) as there is too many things up in the air, but potentially there is a challenge there.

"I'm sure that the Irish delegates are working really hard behind the scenes to make sure everyone is going to get out of it what they need – particularly to get a good positive outcome for Irish rugby.


"It's too important to European rugby not to have a collective top competition that embraces everybody. I can't see the Irish people getting left out in the cold. That would be detrimental to Ireland and to the competition because they have done so well in those competitions."

Meanwhile, Penney said he expects Dave Kilcoyne to fight his way back into the Ireland squad sooner rather than later after his surprise exclusion from Joe Schmidt's first squad.

Kilcoyne was the big casualty from yesterday's squad, with the new coach electing to go with his former Leinster players Cian Healy and Jack McGrath, and Ulster's Tom Court, but Penney is sure Kilcoyne has the talent to prove to Schmidt that he made the wrong call.

"I've got a lot of time for 'Killer'. I think he is a tremendous player and he adds a lot of value. He is one of those guys that bring a real spark of intensity and passion to the game and you can't replace that," he said.

"But Joe knows McGrath really well and Tom Court has obviously had some good performances for Ulster over the last few weeks. So that loose-head spot is a challenging one.

"But just knowing 'Killer', and the way he's handled the conversation this morning about his non-selection is a great credit to the guy. He's young and like any player with real genuine commitment to the game, his focus now is on proving people wrong.

"He is just going to say, 'You've left the wrong guy out', and he can only prove that by his performances on the field. They are looking for something. Hopefully what will happen, and I'm sure it will, they'll speak with Dave around the areas we are looking for improvement from him in."

Meanwhile, Munster forward Donnacha Ryan looks set to be out until the new year, ruling him out of Ireland's November Internationals and Munster's crucial Heineken Cup double- header against Perpignan.

Ryan was also left out of the Irish squad yesterday and Penney confirmed his abrasive utility forward is expected to miss up to 10 weeks because of a knee ligament injury.

"There is a number of ligament strains in there and he's got a big rehab component in front of him now. For all intents and purposes, it's highly likely that he could miss those Heineken Cup games. But we are not discounting the opportunity for him to be potentially back for that," said Penney, whose side will hope to avenge last season's 51-24 defeat to Glasgow when they meet again tomorrow night.

Irish Independent

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