Leinster starlet Penny relishing unexpected opportunities to line out with Ireland U-20s
Coming straight out of school and into the Leinster Academy, Scott Penny was realistic about the goals that he set himself for this season.
Playing for the Ireland U-20s was an obvious place to start, but having lined out four times for Leinster in the PRO14 before the Six Nations had rolled around, the abrasive flanker was already further along than he had ever imagined as a 19-year-old having just left St Michael's College.
The Ireland U-20s had almost expected Penny to be unavailable to them such was the impact he has made and as well as the amount of back-rows that Leo Cullen is without through injury and international duty.
Yet having come through the age-grades himself, the Leinster head coach recognises the importance of young players getting the chance to play for Ireland at U-20s level.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you never get to play 20s again so I'm really enjoying myself and hopefully, I get to play all the rest of the games as well," Penny said.
"I was only really expecting to get maybe one cap this year but I'm delighted to get four caps now and hopefully, I can get a few more after.
"I probably won't get that many more opportunities because there's a certain amount of games you can play - 25 a season - so I'm probably coming up close to that now with the Six Nations and the World Cup in June."
At last week's open training session with the Ireland senior team, Penny got a chance to impress the coaching staff as they ramp up their preparations for Friday's clash in Italy.
"You're almost afraid to make mistakes because Joe (Schmidt) is watching," he added. "Joe talked to us to say well done on the Six Nations so far and to keep up the good work. If we were doing stuff wrong, he'd call us out. Everyone was looking to show everything they can do and trying to impress Joe pretty much."