Friday 19 January 2018

Rob Penney revels in passion of derby day with Ulster

Munster rugby chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald at the annual awards yesterday
Munster rugby chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald at the annual awards yesterday

John Fallon

Munster coach Rob Penney will hope to ensure that his side comes out with a better than 50pc win record in Irish derby matches during his two years in charge when they take on Ulster tomorrow.

Penney has steered Munster to six wins from 11 provincial derby games since he took charge but, of course, tomorrow's clash against Ulster may not be the final match against the provinces as they could meet Mark Ansombe's men or Leinster in the final.

Munster won three of their six derby games last season, defeating Connacht home and away but losing both encounters against Leinster.

They lost 20-19 in his first Irish derby away to Ulster in September 2012 but reversed that the following December when they won 24-10.

This season they scored their first win over Leinster under Penney's guidance when they triumphed 19-15 at Thomond Park in October and then defeated Connacht 22-16 in December.

However, they lost 29-19 away to Ulster the following week and were pipped 22-18 by Leinster at the Aviva Stadium in March, before bouncing back from their home loss to Glasgow by travelling to Galway and ousting Connacht 32-23 the weekend before they played Toulon.

Penney said that the Irish derbies have been a highlight of his time with Munster but said the intensity didn't surprise him as he knew there was a lot of rivalry.

"But I was rapt to see the passion and the parochialism still there," Penney said. "It's beyond anything that's in New Zealand and they've all been such fantastic occasions, whether they've been home or away, to be a part of.

"The people are passionate about them and the parochialism and the bias and the chanting is just what you want at an event. The event isn't necessarily just about the game of rugby, it's about turning up and being proud of your people and supporting your people and enjoying yourself in the grandstand. New Zealand's lost a bit of that and it's just fantastic to be a part of it up here."

Penney said there were many reasons why there was such a difference in the games between the provinces here and the sides in his native country.

"Look, it's for all sorts of reasons. I just think it's very parochial here, (people are) passionate about their surroundings; it probably goes way back into Irish history, the rationale behind that. The beauty is that it exists and it's alive and well and it makes a great event for everybody.

"It puts the pressure on the opposition, it puts pressure on the staff to ensure that everyone's in a good frame of mind to deliver the best that they can because you know whenever you play the derby matches you're going to be in for a real battle," he added.

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