ROB PENNEY TODAY confirmed that Ian Keatley will be his first-choice out-half going into the province’s first season without Ronan O’Gara pulling the strings.
While Keatley operated capably as O’Gara’s understudy last season, many supporters in the southern province would prefer see the rising star of 21-year-old JJ Hanrahan, after a collection of impressive cameos, handed the reins.
Penney’s first port of call today, however, was to state that neither man should be weighed down with the burden of comparison to Ronan O”Gara.
“Ronan is irreplaceable. We’re not looking to replace him,” underlined Penney. “We’re looking to put new people in the 10 jersey and they’ve got to put their own stamp and mark on the game now.
“Nobody here is fretting about Ronan moving on. We can’t afford to do that. We just embrace the guys that have stepped into his rather large shoes and support them 100% so they can be who they need to be.
Asked if he currently knew who his first choice for the position was, he said:
“It would be fair to say that Ian’s got the inside running given his performances last year and the growth that he showed.
“His performances this year have shown that he’s stepped up another level again which is wonderful for him, wonderful for the province and hopefully wonderful for Ireland as well.
“JJ’s gonna have the blowtorch on him, but the hotter it gets hopefully the better Keats gets to keep JJ at bay.
“There are some practicalities around that; JJ’s gonna get some opportunity and as their form develops down the year, that will be a selection issue.”
Meanwhile, Penney won’t be able to view same level of competition for places at tight-head prop for at least the coming month.
BJ Botha was forced to leave the win over London Irish early with a knee injury and Penney today confirmed that the scans show a grade two medial ligament tear.
It’s an injury, the Kiwi says, which will require a “minimum of four weeks” recovery time. Munster kick off their Heineken Cup campaign away to (this weekend’s opponents) Edinburgh in just over five weeks.