A combination of elation and disappointment were Niall Scannell’s chief emotions as several of his Munster colleagues were called up to last week’s Irish camp at Carton House.
The Munster hooker was thrilled kid brother Rory was part of the build-up to the game against Australia. But the Dolphin man also admits frustration at not having heard from Joe Schmidt after many fine performances.
“To have Rory up there was brilliant and I think he really enjoyed the experience, even just being 24th man,” says Niall. “He was probably disappointed to be left out but it is great for him to be soaking up that experience. I was probably a touch disappointed not to be involved in any of the training squads but it would be unnatural not to be. I want to play for my national team but you just got to trust the system, that if you keep performing and keep doing what you need to do here, that hopefully it will come.”
Scannell acknowledges he must, at the very least, maintain his outstanding form this season if that ambition is to be realised. Indeed, even at Munster, the arrival of New Zealander Rhys Marshall and the pending return of the likes of Mike Sherry and Duncan Casey is sure to keep him on his toes.
“It was Rhys’s first start the other day and I think he did exceptionally well for a guy who is not here long. But I am also aware there is a lot of competition in the physio room at the moment that will be back soon and they will be just as hungry as ever. That is the tradition we have, we seem to breed good hookers in Munster.
“I knew when I was in the Academy it was never going to be easy to get your position as a Munster hooker so we will keep having that battle and see how it pans out for the rest of the season.”
Given the importance and the severity of the programme over the next couple of months (five European Cup games included), Scannell probably reflects the air of quiet confidence in the camp when stating “there is a little bit of enjoyable pressure that you can kinda ‘say this is going to be the make or break time of the season’ so it is probably about upping our game and not patting ourselves on the back after five wins in a row and instead keeping the momentum going”.
The next test comes up on Friday on Glasgow’s 4G pitch at Scotstoun. Munster will again be without several of their international contingent and Glasgow may be in a similar situation. If anything, though, their need is greater for they have fallen seven points behind current pace setters Munster over the last few weeks when so many of their players were away with Scotland.
“Obviously, it was trying circumstances the last time we played them in the Champions Cup at Thomond Park,” says Scannell in reference to the passing a week earlier of Anthony Foley. “They were very respectful and put on an exceptional show. As far as their home form goes, we won’t be lulled into any false sense of security because Scotstoun is a hard place to go. We have not played on the 4G pitch there yet, so that is going to be another factor. We know already they are a hugely talented, well-drilled team.”
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