MUNSTER COACH ROB PENNEY was almost as pleased with his side’s Heineken Cup fixtures draw as with signing a flying winger for the Reds’ backline next season.
The Kiwi expressed his delight at signing South African speedster Gerhard van der Heever on Monday before turning his attention to a European draw that gives Munster fans a Saturday evening kick-off against Gloucester at Thomond Park.
He told TheScore.ie, ”When the pool draw was done we were very positive about our pool and now that the fixtures are out it’s great that we have a few Saturday fixtures, especially an early evening Saturday game in Thomond Park for the supporters.”
First up for Munster is an away tie against ‘the devil you know’ in Edinburgh. Penney’s men defeated the Scots twice, with ease, in last year’s competition but coach Michael Bradley has since been replaced by interim coach Steve Scott. Edinburgh are looking at former Springboks’ adviser Alan Solomon, who is currently at Eastern Province Kings.
Munster host Gloucester in Limerick in a preseason fixture but Penney knows the task will be tougher when they return in October. “We’re looking forward to hosting them in Thomond Park,” he said, “and there’s a little bit of history there which always adds a bit of spice to it.”
The back-to-back ties will be against a Perpignan side that has changed massively over the summer. 10 players, including Tommaso Benvenutti and Watsioni Votu, have come in while Gilles Bosch [Carcassonne] and Nicolas Mas [Montpellier] are out the door. Penney said:
Perpignan are a side that are really trying to force their way in to the top echelon of the Top 14. They are going to take this competition, as they always do, really seriously and they’ll look to be another French club to make it to that top level of Heineken Cup which is always challenging.”
Penney is also happy that the final game of Pool 6 will be at home, against Edinburgh, although no date or time has been confirmed.
The coach commented, “History would indicate that the last pool game at home can be critical, not just for Munster but for a lot of teams in this competition and knowing you’ve a home game in a place like Thomond Park is quite consoling.”