Keatley not taking Munster starting spot for granted
THE suggestion that he has been installed as Munster's first-choice out-half took Ian Keatley by surprise on Saturday night.
The 26-year-old started the opening Celtic League game as pivot but, he insists, he is taking nothing for granted, despite his coach's assertion that Keatley is his first choice.
"Rob (Penney) hasn't said that to me," he stated. "As far as I'm concerned I've got the nod for the moment but JJ Hanrahan scored three tries in three games and Johnny Holland is learning all the time."
It says much about Keatley's mindset that he's taking nothing for granted. In his previous two seasons with Munster he actually played more games than Ronan O'Gara.
Last season Keatley played 27 games, made up of 22 Pro12 outings (15 starts) and five Heineken Cup matches, while O'Gara played just 18 times over both the Celtic League and Heineken Cup competitions.
In the 2011/12 season – Keatley's first with Munster – O'Gara played just 14 times and only started five Pro12 games. Keatley managed 19 games in the league (16 as starter) and two replacement appearances in European competition.
It's fair to assume Keatley was not being coy when he dismissed the idea that the No 10 jersey is now his as despite featuring more regularly in the last two seasons, he couldn't oust the more experienced O'Gara.
"The two lads will get their chances over the course of the season," he said.
"That's the way it is with our squad. There's competition for places in every position. It's not just the No 10 shirt.
"I can only do my best. I will continue to play to my strengths, work on my weaknesses and concentrate on keeping the team focused and playing the way all three out-halves want to play,"
Munster's run of form that took them past Harlequins and into the Heineken Cup semi-final last season helped gloss over what was a poor season overall. They failed to finish in the top four in the league for the first time since 2007.
"Our Pro12 season got a bit away from us," Keatley acknowledged. "We should be winning every week in that competition. We know that we will get up for the Heineken Cup games, especially with the Thomond Park factor. It's what we do every week that we need to work on and we have to be better and more consistent in the Pro12 every week."