Penney: Ulster game will be a benchmark
Munster head coach Rob Penney believes Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 showdown against Ulster will give his players an opportunity to measure themselves against the best in the league.
Ulster remain unbeaten so far in this season’s PRO12 and it took a narrow defeat to Northampton Saints in the last round of Heineken Cup games to bring an end to a 13-game winning run in all competitions for the northern province.
Mark Anscombe’s men are nine points clear of the Scarlets at the top of the PRO12 table with Munster fourteen points adrift in third place.
Like everyone who has watched Ulster play this season Penney has been impressed by their performances.
"The Ulster guys are going really well, so it will be a real benchmark for us, given that they are so far in front and playing some really good, tough rugby," said Penney.
Ulster enter Saturday’s game on the back of an impressive 27-19 triumph over Leinster at Ravenhill on Friday which saw the men in white register three tries to Leinster’s one.
One of those tries was a product of the scrum with referee George Clancy awarding Ulster a penalty try after they dominated the set piece, something which Penney is conscious of heading into the weekend.
"These local derbies are fantastic. I saw Ulster on Friday. (They were) brutal, big, robust, tough, physical, clinical, all the clichés and superlatives you’re probably used to hearing about them every week.
“The way they dismantled the Leinster scrum and put them under real pressure, and at times at lineout maul drives, they brutalised Leinster.”
The New Zealander has called on the Red Army to turn up to Thomond Park in full voice on Saturday in the hope that they can create an intimidating atmosphere for the Ulster players who will be buoyed by last weekend’s victory.
"They’ll be very difficult. To come away having beaten Leinster will boost their confidence even more coming to Thomond Park, not that they needed a boost.
“Hopefully we can have lots of people there with their Christmas party hats on and give Ulster a hard time like they gave us a hard time up there."