Heineken Cup 2014: Munster must be at their best, admits Rob Penney
Heineken Cup 2014: Rob Penney admits Munster must be at their best against Toulon on Sunday
Rob Penney believes his side will have to be at their very best to reach the final of the Heineken Cup when they take on reigning champions Toulon on Sunday.
The Munster head coach led his side to a thumping 47-23 win over four-time winners Toulouse in their quarter-final at Thomond Park earlier this month, but an away day in Marseille will be a different prospect altogether.
There is a little bit of history between Toulon and Munster in this competition, so we’ll be trying to uncover every little avenue we can to try and tap into those motivational and inspirational moments
“We’re going to have to play the best game we’ve ever played,” Penney said. “Some individuals are going to have to go beyond where they have been before.
“That is the challenge for us as a management group: to try and get the group in a frame of mind that they are prepared to do that.”
New Zealander Penney took charge of the Irish province in 2012 and has ambitions on picking up silverware before he heads for pastures new at the end of the current campaign.
“This is an exciting part of your life, they don’t get any better than this,” he added. “Going to Clermont last year was really exciting, but playing Toulon is a bit special for me as a coach.
“There is a little bit of history between Toulon and Munster in this competition, so we’ll be trying to uncover every little avenue we can to try and tap into those motivational and inspirational moments to see if we can pull out a magical performance.”
Last year saw Munster come close to a dream final against Toulon at the Aviva Stadium, but they lost 16-10 to Clermont Auvergne in Montpellier in their semi-final.
The four clubs from last year’s semi-finals all made it through again in the final iteration of the Heineken Cup and Penney expects an even bigger test from the star-studded behemoths from the Côte d’Azur.
“After Clermont last year there was a realisation that this group can compete at this level,” Penney said. “I don’t think they thought that before that game.
“At half-time, we talked about how we needed to believe in ourselves. As the game went on, we were able to become more threatening.
“I think they went away from that game with a lot more belief than they had before and that has flowed into this year’s European competition.
“Let’s hope it continues this week and we can go into a very, very daunting task with a bit of belief and confidence.”
Munster’s Heineken Cup record is up with the best in European rugby with 11 semi-final appearances in 15 years, including four finals, two of which were won against French opposition at the Millennium Stadium in 2006 (Biarritz) and 2008 (Toulouse).
Their two final defeats have come against English opposition in 2000 (Northampton Saints) at Twickenham and 2002 (Leicester Tigers) at the Millennium Stadium which sets up an intriguing prospect with Saracens facing Clermont at Twickenham in the other semi-final on Saturday. The final venue will again be the Millennium Stadium.