Munster’s Hurley enjoying the Penney era

Colm Kinsella talks to Munster’s Denis Hurley about the new approach under Rob Penney.

Colm Kinsella talks to Munster’s Denis Hurley about the new approach under Rob Penney.

MUNSTER utility back Denis Hurley believes Rob Penney’s arrival at the province this season has brought a freshness to the squad which augurs well for the remainder of the season.

Twenty eight-year-old Hurley who won his 100th Munster caps in Saturday’s PRO12 victory over Ulster has also praised the positivity New Zealander Penney has brought with him to the set-up.

Hurley said: “Tony McGahan had been involved under Declan Kidney before he became head coach.

“This is a real fresh start. Obviously Axel (Anthony Foley) and Ian Costello have remained on, but the play structure, the training structure has unleashed a new life and interest for a lot of players as well.

“Even looking at the lads who have been given a lot more gametime this season, they have performed. Part of that is the excitement going into matches and playing a new style of game and one we enjoy playing. If you enjoy doing something you are going to make greater strides at it. I think that has been a massive factor.

“Rob (Penney) is a great guy. He always sees the positives in things. I think that reflects throughout the squad so far. We have had tough nights so far this season when we have lost games which have been quite tight. It has mattered a lot to the squad on the whole. To be able to come in on the Monday morning, brush it off and just get excited about the following weekend is a big thing.”

Hurley has faced stiffer competition in his bid to tie down a starting spot in the side in recent times with the emergence of several exciting young players, including the likes of Simon Zebo and Luke O’Dea.

Former St Munchin’s College star Hurley said: “It is a week to week selection policy. You need to be performing to hold your spot. That comes back to a lot of the younger lads have been getting a lot more game time over the past season or two. They have really been pushing themselves forward for spots. For guys like me, I know I need to be on top of my game to hold my spot. That is what selection comes down to - being on top of your game. Munster is about performing at the top level. We probably haven’t been as consistent as we have been a few seasons ago.

“We are in a good position going forward - in the top four in the RaboDirect and in a reasonably good spot going into the last two games in the Heineken Cup which are must-win. We know where we stand.

“We have had spells where we showed we can really cut teams apart with this game plan. At times we haven’t fully implemented the game plan and what we are trying to do, what we are trying to achieve. That is what has let down the gameplan. I think there were flashes in the second half when we did open Ulster up. We picked off a couple of scores. A lot of it is about stretching defences and putting them under as much pressure as possible.”