THE travel demands as Ireland decamped from the USA to Japan on a route which took them through the Artic and countless time zones on Sunday night meant Niall Scannell still hasn’t had time to digest or celebrate with kid brother Rory on his first cap.
It all happened so quickly for Niall with his debut against Italy in February that he fully appreciates the significance of his 23-year old brother making his bow.
And the pride of Dolphin have also joined an unique little band of brothers as both managed to score during the 55-19 win over the USA in New Jersey on Saturday.
Hooker Niall had already scored his first international try by the time his younger brother was introduced, and while their father and sister made it to the game, there hasn’t been time for celebrations.
The Irish team arrived in two groups on Monday and began acclimatising yesterday, trying to adjust to the wet and humid conditions set to prevail through Saturday’s opening test against Japan at the Ecopa Stadium 200km away in Shizuoka. Scannell, who won the first of his five caps against Italy in February, knows Rory’s debut was a milestone on Saturday.
“It was brilliant he had an impact on the game, which was brilliant. Your first cap you want it to be a significant bit of game time. He’s been banging on the door so it was brilliant to see him get the cap. Great day for the family. He’ll be looking to kick on if he gets his chance this week.”
The 25-year old has had to bide his time for international honours with the likes of Rory Best and Sean Cronin ahead of him in the picking order, but he made the most of his chance when he got it in the Six Nations earlier this year.
He knows the Irish face a searching test against Japan in these conditions and the inexperienced tourists are going to need extend Ireland’s perfect record against them to six games.
“They’ll bring a dominant scrum, a massively contested area, and so will the lineouts. That’s what we’ve focused on primarily since landing here. They really acquitted themselves very well there against Romania.”
Meanwhile, Ireland skills coach Richie Murphy believes Garry Ringrose can add a kicking option to his game as he develops into a top international. The 22-year old showed his vast array of skills when he landed a touchline conversion against the USA at the weekend at a time when Joey Carbery was recovering from a knock. Another injury to Carbery later in the game has ended his summer tour, and he now faces four to six weeks recovering from an ankle sprain.
Paddy Jackson, who didn’t travel to the USA, has linked up with the squad here in Tokyo and so too has his Ulster colleague Sean Reidy, who was a pre-tour replacement for the injured Tommy O’Donnell.
Jackson is likely to go straight into the side for Saturday’s opening test against Japan at the Ecopa Stadium, 200 kilometres southwest of Tokyo in Shizuoka.
“He was in with us the training week [in Ireland], and he’s up to speed with everything,” said Murphy. “He’s turned himself over the last 12 months into one of the senior players around the group. We didn’t have him last week so it’s like getting a new player in.”
Murphy, who is also the Irish kicking coach, said Ringrose has the ability to add that option to his all-round game.
“We always need 2-3 placekickers on the team, with injuries or yellow card, people have to step up. Conor Murray had the opportunity against the All Blacks, he’d been working on that a long time, he’d never had a chance to do it, then all of a sudden, one of the biggest games in Ireland’s history he has a chance to kick at goal. That’s the way we approach it with some of these guys. Garry’s not done it since U20, but I had a chat with him last week, ‘we need you to kick a few goals’, and he got back into it and knocked over a nice one from the touchline!
“He’ll do another bit this week, and whether he’s used or not we’ll see. Garry is just getting comfortable at international level himself. We are a little bit short on goal-kickers at the moment within the squad. Garry was looked at one as one of those guys who has done it before very successfully at schoolboy and at U20 level. He was an ideal choice to just get him out there hitting a few and he has done that very well. Is it something we will persist with? It probably will but you might not see it again for a couple of years until he is asked to step up and do it.”
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