Heineken squad the main focus for fully fit Dineen
Motivated Munster inside-centre aims to make it easy for Penney
ROB PENNEY will spend the next six days finalising his roster for the Heineken Cup competition.
By his own admission, there are four places in his 38-strong squad he has yet to decide on. The message to those players on the fringes of his thoughts is clear – make the coach's mind up for by giving him no choice.
Inside-centre Ivan Dineen plans on doing just that.
The eager, driven Dineen was very impressive in Munster's opening-day win over Edinburgh in Cork last weekend.
He was strong with ball in hand, made his tackles and showed a burst of pace on a couple of occasions that held the promise of more to come.
If he were being assessed on just that game and his pre-season, he'd understandably be more confident of European selection. He's clever and pragmatic enough to know it's not that straightforward with a player who has been plagued by injury.
This is Dineen's second stint with Munster. He was in the Academy for a number of years before being cut loose back to the All-Ireland League where he captained UCC.
He had almost given up on the professional dream when a development contract was dangled in front of him.
He didn't hesitate and was upgraded to a full contract last season.
At 26 years of age, it's not that he's a late bloomer. Knee and hip problems have disrupted his career and, at one stage, threatened to derail it altogether.
"I'm 100pc now. I had problems with my knees and then a bone spur on my hip, but we (Dineen and the Munster strength and conditioning staff) figured out how to correct the problem.
"I needed to do a lot of work on my mobility during the summer and through the season. It's not so much managing it as just being clever and making sure I spend time every week working on my mobility and flexibility.
"This is the first time in my career I can honestly say I'm fully fit. It feels good."
Because of his injury setbacks, it has been rare for Dineen to start on successive weekends, something he does tonight when he lines up against Zebre at 6.30 (Irish time).
"It does feel like a trial period," he said this week. "You're in for one match here or there and you know you have to make the most of it.
"Everyone is aware of the deadline for the Heineken Cup squad and it's focusing and driving us all.
"We're all desperate to be involved from the start. The competition is ferocious.
"We're playing these games and playing well. Against Edinburgh only two balls hit the ground. That's a big boast, but no matter how well we play, we all know that there are other guys still to come in.
"Keith Earls, Felix Jones, Simon Zebo. These guys are internationals and yet to play. We know we have to be at our best in these games if we're to make an impression and get another chance."
Tonight's game against Zebre is a last chance to impress the coach before he submits his Heineken Cup squad to the ERC on Thursday.
Zebre have yet to win a game in their existence. They lost every match last season and, despite putting up a good performance against Connacht last weekend, they still came out on the wrong end of the scoreline.
The Italian side are improving though. They mounted an impressive fightback in the second half against Connacht and were rewarded with a late try from Andrea Manici.
Their comeback has emboldened coach Andrea Cavinato.
"We were too cautious in the first half against Connacht and paid the price," said Cavinato. "Despite giving away a stupid first try, when we lost our line-out, we played with diligence and organisation.
"We can certainly take positives from that game into our meeting with Munster."
Penney has made a whopping 11 changes to the side that started against Edinburgh. There is a first competitive start for Andrew Conway after his recovery from a dead leg. He lines up on the left wing, while Donnacha Ryan is also set for his season's bow.
Ryan was given the full summer off to recover from the various ailments that affected him last season and he is partnered by Ian Nagle in the second-row.
There is also a start for CJ Stander in the back-row, while JJ Hanrahan takes over from Ian Keatley at out-half.
Munster will move to Lake Garda after tonight's game for a training camp when Penney will finalise his Heineken Cup squad.
They then take on Treviso next weekend before returning to Ireland.
ZEBRE – R Trevisan; L Sarto, K Ratuvou, G Garxia, G Venditti; L Orquera, B Leonard; S Perugini, A Manici, L Redolfini; Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami; F Ferrarini, A Van Schalkwyk, S Vunisa. Reps: D Giazzon, M Aguero, D Chistolini, G Biagi, F Cristiano, A Chillon, T Iannone, D Berryman.
MUNSTER – D Hurley; J Murphy, C Laulala, I Dineen, A Conway; JJ Hanrahan, C Sheridan; D Kilcoyne, D Varley, J Ryan; D Ryan, I Nagle; CJ Stander, T O'Donnell, P Butler. Reps: M Sherry, J Cronin, S Archer, D Foley, N Ronan, D Williams, I Keatley, J Downey.