MUNSTER head coach Rob Penney is confident the province can build on their exploits in the Heineken Cup this season.
Munster surprised by observers by reaching the semi-finals, before providing a huge challenege for Cup favourites Clermont Auvergne in Montpellier on Saturday.
Despite suffering a six-point defeat, coach Penney said he couldn’t be prouder of the players.
“We’ll look back and there will be some frustration, but at the moment I couldn’t be prouder of the group and their effort and energy,” Penney said.
“At this level, tiny margins make a difference and sometimes it’s honestly just the way a ball bounces when it hits the ground and it just wasn’t to be today?
“It’s interesting that there are people who were very surprised that we got to this point.
“We had a really tough pool when you think about Racing Metro and about Saracens. Racing are top four in the Top 14 and Saracens doing really well and they’re in the other semi.
“I don’t think Munster got enough credit for getting its way through that pool.
So on the back of that, our win against Harlequins, I thought we’d go into that game knowing that we’d have to work really hard and that we’d have to perform well but we had a lot belief. . . .
“There there were elements of today’s effort that encapsulate my vision, if you like, which I’m trying to build to the Munster team and I thought at times we were really effective at it, in our ability to compete with teams at maul time, at the breakdown, all traditional things that Munster have always done so well.
“It’s critical that they’re retained and built on. And then our ability to also recognise space when it’s on and have the skill set and understanding to be able to move it into those areas to capitalise.
“There were elements of those today and, yeah, we’re not where we want to be by any means but there’s a good shift happening and there’s some really good work going on behind the scenes.
“I think it’s going to be great, not only for Munster but also for Irish rugby.”
Munster play their final fixture of the season this Friday evening when Rob Penney’s men travel to Italy to take on Zebre at the Stadio XXV Aprile (6.45pm Irish time).
Head coach Rob Penney is likely to ring the changes for the fixture, with several younger members of his squad likely to gain valuable gametime.
Munster’s hopes of making the knock-out stages of the PRO12 have passed.
Joe Schmidt - who has guided Leinster to back-to-back Heineken Cup triumphs and this season’s Amlin Challenge Cup final - has been appointed the new Ireland head coach.
Schmidt has also enjoyed success in the French Top 14 as backs coach with 2013 Heineken Cup finalists ASM Clermont Auvergne - including the club’s historic first domestic title.