Niall Scannell’s readiness for Test rugby got the Ireland management’s seal of approval last night as the uncapped Munster hooker prepared to stand in for sick captain Rory Best against Italy this afternoon.
Called up for the Irish Six Nations squad alongside his brother and Munster centre Rory, Niall, 23, was on standby for a full Test debut in the Ireland front row in the event of Best failing to recover overnight from a stomach bug that left the skipper confined to his Rome hotel room yesterday.
Best, who won his 101st cap Saturday in the loss to Scotland on the opening day of the 2017 Six Nations, did not participate in yesterday’s captain’s run at Stadio Olimpico with Scannell poised to start in the number two jersey and vice-captain Jamie Heaslip ready to lead the side.
Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby is confident Best, 34, will feel well enough to face the Italians but he has not doubt that former Ireland U20 captain Scannell, an unused replacement last weekend at Murrayfield, will be fit for purpose if called up.
“He’s fitted in really well and I think whenever you come into a new environment, sometimes it takes a little longer to adjust, and to integrate yourself,” Easterby said. “But he’s fitted in really well. He has obviously had his brother in the squad to help him along as well.
“But a lot of the Munster guys are very supportive of him and he has shown a lot of good qualities in a Munster team who are playing really well against the top teams in Europe. He’s brought that type of form into training. That type of quality. He’s a very intelligent guy as well.
“He certainly understands the game and has a really good grasp of what he needs to do. And that allows a player to be really confident that they can go about their business and not worry too much about things that are going on.
“He’s focused and we believe in terms of set piece work it’s pretty sound. He’s a big guy in terms of his scrummaging. We certainly know it’s an area the Italians will try to come after us at because we got a good platform last week with good discipline. So Niall potentially coming into that mix will be adding real value if Rory doesn’t make it.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved