To have been an Irish player sitting on the bench for those final few minutes against New Zealand must have been tough. To know that there was nothing you could do to affect the game or change the outcome must have been incredibly frustrating. To not have been involved at all must have been torture.
Munster hooker, Niall Scannell, started off the November series with a brilliant performance against Italy in Chicago but returned to being the third choice behind Rory Best and Sean Cronin for the following games against Argentina and the All Blacks. He was naturally, disappointed, but was as anxious as any match day player in the build-up to the 7pm kick-off last Saturday.
“I just watched it at home. I have to watch it at home. I can’t have too many things going on. I was nearly anxious from lunchtime on. The seven o’clock kick-off was killing me. I just had to watch it at home to stay calm and try and take it in. I’m murder with the Sky Plus, fast forwarding and rewinding it.”
“We are always unbelievably selfish, we want to be in the team but to be honest, how I view it is on Thursday when the team was announced, I wasn’t in it. You are handing it over then and we would always say the responsibility is then on the guys who are picked to perform and I think when they perform you can’t feel aggrieved or let down.”
“There’s just a bit of an acceptance factor when you put your best foot forward all week and then they announce the team and after that you just do your best to prepare the guys and hand it over and that’s exactly what we did last week and when they back it up with the performance they did then you can’t really have any complaints.”
With the team giving one of their best performances of recent times, a fresh challenge has been set to the fringe players to meet those standards. Scannell is hopeful for an opportunity to test himself against the USA this weekend, his last chance to prove his worth in a green shirt before the Six Nations.
“I didn’t play last week and I want to show what I can do. It’s our last chance in a green jersey before we go back to our provinces. It’s 100% an opportunity for us, and I hope we can grab it with both hands.”
“The competition for places is just so strong. Everyone wants to get to the standard the lads laid out there last week. That’s more the focus to get to that bar. We don’t have nerves or trepidation about falling short, We’re just excited to get out there against the USA and try to set that bar as high as we can.”