Mick O’Driscoll backs Rob Penney as the man to put Munster back on top in Europe
RETIRING Munster lock Mick O'Driscoll has backed incoming coach Rob Penney to get the Irish province back to the top of the European game.
Munster's season came to an ignominious end with Friday's 45-10 RaboDirect Pro12 semi-final defeat to the Ospreys, just weeks after their Heineken Cup dreams were shattered by Ulster at the quarter-final stage.
Many have pointed to an aging squad, with the likes of Paul O'Connell, Ronan O'Gara and Donncha O'Callaghan in the latter stages of their careers, as a sign that the two-time Heineken Cup winners are a fading force.
But O'Driscoll, 33, who hangs up his boots after 14 years and 23 Ireland caps, inists young talents such as back-rower Peter O'Mahony and scrum-half Conor Murray show there can be a bright future for the province.
And the second row also believes Penney, who has enjoyed sustained success with Canterbury in New Zealand, is the ideal man to succeed Australia-bound Tony McGahan.
"People have ben saying it is the end of an era (for Munster) since 2006," he said.
"But we have gone on since then, we won the European cup again in 2008, and we won the RaboDirect Pro12 so I don't see it as the end of an era.
"Look at the average age of our starting XV (against the Ospreys) we have had that side out a lot this season, is that the end of an era? Absolutely not.
"It takes time but these young guys have played plenty of rugby, and next season is about starting afresh, standing up to be counted and turning things around.
"Rob Penney has a big job, there is no hiding the fact, but he has plenty of talent there.
"He will have Axel (Anthony Foley) as forwards coach, a good Munster man behind him, so I don't see it as a a massive task for him.
"It's a big job, don't get me wrong, but from what I have heard of him and know of him it's something he will be able to handle, and hopefully next season we will be back where we belong."