Saturday 16 December 2017

Penney plan coming together

'Thrilled' Archer backs coach's vision for Reds future as he and Keatley sign new contracts

Ian Keatley is firmly in Rob Penney's plans after signing a new deal that will keep the out-half at Munster until 2015
Ian Keatley is firmly in Rob Penney's plans after signing a new deal that will keep the out-half at Munster until 2015

John Fallon

The shaping of the Munster squad for the second year of Rob Penney's reign has moved into overdrive as the Kiwi restructures it for next season.

Most of the Munster squad, despite a big transitory period, was in place by the time the former Canterbury coach was named as successor to Tony McGahan last May. Penney concluded his work as New Zealand U-20 coach in June before arriving in Ireland the following month for the start of his two-year contract, so this is his first real opportunity to influence the make-up of his squad.

A raft of contract extensions were announced before Christmas, and this week out-half Ian Keatley and tighthead prop Stephen Archer committed their future to Penney's side when they signed contracts which will keep them with the Reds until the summer of 2015.

Archer, who will be 25 on Tuesday, said there is a great atmosphere in the squad and a real belief that they will achieve glory. It has been a period of huge change in Munster and Archer, who has played for Ireland at schoolboy, U-20 and Wolfhounds level, said he had no hesitation in extending his contract.

He said that speculation about whether BJ Botha would remain with Munster was not a factor -- the former Springbok World Cup winner has been linked with Toulon -- and that he believed he would get his opportunity.

"In many ways this is a brand new squad. We had a lot of legends retiring in the past couple of seasons. They left their legacy -- the two Heineken Cups and the league titles -- but now it is a chance for this group to try replicate that," said Archer, who has been out of action for the past couple of weeks with a quad injury, but hopes to be back in the frame for the Edinburgh game on February 9.

"We need to keep improving but there is great belief. It is a fresh start. It was great to qualify on Sunday, I thought the lads were very clinical when it really mattered.

"It is a frustrating sort of injury which happened to me in the Cardiff game. I had got a good few games over Christmas and was happy with the way they had gone.

"I've been lucky enough with injuries, but they are part of the game and you just deal with them."

Extending his contract with Munster was not a difficult decision for the 120kg prop.

"I have been a massive Munster supporter all my life so to be given the chance to have the jersey passed to me is an honour. I'm happy with the way I'm progressing and feel we can achieve a lot. It is an exciting time and I'm thrilled to be part of it," he said.

The Cork native has made 42 appearances for Munster, 23 of them off the bench, since his debut against Edinburgh in October 2009.

Having John Hayes and then Botha in front of him in the queue has limited his Heineken Cup appearances -- two off the bench last year and one this season -- but he has been content to bide his time because he believes his moment will come.

Archer, a product of Cork Constitution, Christians and UCC, has followed a traditional line into Munster and he hopes that will continue on to Irish honours.

"I'm not the first to go that route and if I can have some of the success those before me had it won't be too bad," he said.

But, for now, he is concentrating on being part of the Penney Plan as Munster look to return to the glory days.

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