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Friday 28 April 2017

Munster's Scannell in line to make Six Nations impact

Munster’s Niall Scannell. Pic: Sportsfile
Munster’s Niall Scannell. Pic: Sportsfile

Munster hooker Niall Scannell may well be on the verge of seeing a great season get even better.

Seán Cronin's unfortunate fall to injury opens up the debate on who will be Rory Best's second-best man for the Six Nations.

Moreover, Ulster's Rob Herring, capped in South Africa last summer, has been ruled out until the middle of February, at the earliest, from a knee injury.

The limited playing numbers in Irish rugby means Scannell, Leinster's Richardt Strauss and James Tracy and Connacht's Dave Heffernan are the only viable alternatives to Cronin.

The options in this specialist area is the reason behind the import of Tom McCartney into Connacht and Rhys Marshall into Munster.

Former Ireland U20 captain Scannell has embraced the change of regime at Munster.

The 24 year-old is the only remaining hooker in the four provinces to have nailed down a starting berth.

The commitment of Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus to win the physical battle first and play off that is a throwback to the turn of The Millennium.

Erasmus has drawn on the traditional strengths of Munster, reaching down into their roots, rather than opting for a complete change of style.

It seems a finer fit as South African and Munster rugby share a culture of confrontation.

This suits Scannell just fine as a set-piece hooker more inclined towards the basics allied to work ethic.

Whether it finds resonance in Joe Schmidt's need for impact is not really relevant for the Six Nations.

Scannell did not attend Ireland's last mini-camp due to Munster's re-arranged Champions Cup fixture with Racing 92.

But, he has spent time out in Carton House in previous camps.

The Corkman's next chance to impress will be at Scotstoun on Saturday when Munster and Glasgow Warriors dual it out for control of Pool One and qualification for the quarter-finals.

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