Munster Rugby – Eyes on Treviso, minds on Leinster

Munster Rugby Squad TrainingMUNSTER take on Treviso this Saturday 22 evening in Thomond Park (kick off at 7.15pm) Rob Penney’s men, currently in second place in the table will be focusing on the task at hand this weekend, but minds all over the country are quickly turning to March 29 and the clash between Munster and Leinster at the Aviva.
With only three Munster players selected to start for Ireland in Paris last weekend, the men in red will be using that oversight to make sure that they impress on Saturday week against the Leinster side stocked full of Irish internationals.
“I am loathe to look beyond Treviso, but if we just basically think about the ramifications of what has happened over the past three months, it is going to be Munster verses the 6 Nations champions, and a hardened 6 Nations champions side and a quality side. The beyond-Treviso block (of games) is going to be one which is massively challenging. There is a lot of people here who are hurt that they haven’t made the group. Let’s get through this weekend before we start talking more about that,” added Munster head coach Rob Penney.
The Munster mantra of “we are better when we are bitter” is something that Penney believes in, but is also aware that revenge for selection omissions will only take a player so far.
“There is that way of looking at it. You would expect a response, but it only lasts for a short period of time,” Penney insisted.
“In terms of being able to use it as a motivational force, there is no longevity to it. You can only be bitter for so long. The other side of the coin is that the Leinster boys have been working together and are battled hardened over the past three months, preparing for internationals and winning an international tournament, that will be a factor too.”
One player who was in the Irish set up, but not used in the Six Nations was Felix Jones. The former Leinster back is eager to get back into action and put his hand up for Irish selection on the Summer  tour to Argentina.
“Everyone wants to play for Ireland and everyone wants to get into the group now. It’s obviously a successful group now so it’s not going to be an easy task. There has been great consistency in the team over the campaign and they were rewarded for their performances so you have got to be 20-30 per cent better than the guys that are there to get in,” Jones added.
When asked will it add an edge to Munster that there were only three starters on  Saturday in the championship decider, Jones felt it will certainly drive the players on.
“Guys want to get into that side now and they need to be better [than the players already there]. It needs  to be clear now. It is going to turn guys hungry. You know the feeling of guys coming in this week was hunger. Hopefully we can translate that on to the pitch.”
Focusing on this weekend, Munster can welcome back Keith Earls from injury. The Irish international has been out of action since Munster’s Heineken Cup pool game versus Edinburgh in January. The versatile backline player missed out on the Six Nations victory as a result. Earls, 26, has had a tough run of injuries and looked to be finally hitting a good run of fitness and form before Sunday’s unfortunate clash with Edinburgh’s Dougie Fife.
Niall Scannell continued to train with the side after both returned from injury last week, while longer-term injury absentees Cathal Sheridan (forearm) and Mike Sherry (knee) remain out of action for the foreseeable future.
This weekend, Munster, currently one point off of top spot behind Leinster, will need to match or better Leinster’s result against Zebre to make sure they stay in the hunt for a home semi final. Finishing in first place in the table would also guarantee a home RaboDirect Pro12 Final should the Munster men qualify for same.