Thursday 12 December 2019

Players believe they can create miracle – Penney

Munster head coach Rob Penney
Munster head coach Rob Penney
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

EVER since Wayne Barnes' whistle sounded to bring Leinster's torture to a halt at the Stade Felix Mayol, a part of Rob Penney's mind has been focused on the task that awaits this Sunday.

Now, he can turn his full attention to the mammoth task at hand. He knows what's coming, but figuring out how to beat Toulon is no easy feat.

Certainly, he and his coaching staff have put in the man hours. Assistant Simon Mannix missed the win over Connacht to take in Toulon's visit to Perpignan, while the Leinster game tape has been spliced and diced for clues.

He'll spot a gap and look for an example of it opening again, something systematic. It rarely re-appears.

Toulon may be an expensively assembled collection of ageing former superstars, but Penney is full of admiration for the European champions.

"The (defensive) fractures are very few and far between; not consistent enough to go, 'that's where we've got to be able to attack them'," he said. "That's always a bit disconcerting when you're coming up against a team that have got strengths across the park and have shown very limited pictures in terms of where they might be fragile."

Not that Penney is giving up hope of finding a way through.

"You'd hate to put a team into an environment where they thought it was hopeless," he continued.

"There is always hope and the key bit of hope is that it's all not when we step across the white line. It's 15 men on 15 men in rugby, it's a great way of throwing up the underdog or the uncertainty and creating potential miracles.

"I hate to use that expression because it has probably been used a lot, but for us to go there and do the job it is going to take something special. But this group is capable of doing something special. As I said, it's not hopeless, there is hope."

Penney disputes the idea of Toulon as mercenaries amid talk that Munster's togetherness will work in their favour against the collection of superstars assembled by millionaire Mourad Boudjellal.

"We've got some international players with international experience but it's that unrelenting power... and what's been really obvious is their desire to play for each other and to work for each other," the coach said.

"Someone asked me if it was like playing a team of mercenaries but I don't think for a moment they're mercenaries.

"I think they're very proud international-class players that are getting well remunerated for doing a great job with a great club."

Penney didn't paint a particularly positive picture of the task his team face this Sunday, but it doesn't mean he's writing his team off, far from it.

"I'd like to think what the Munster boys have now is a belief in themselves," he said of his team.

"When they need to go to the well, they know there is going to be water there, because they are going to have to go there a few times on Sunday.

"That belief is going to be critical to us getting close and if we are close, anything is possible then."

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