There’s never a good time to get an injury but there are certain points in the season which are definitely worse than others. Niall Scannell would certainly agree with that.
The Cork native would have been hoping to add to the seven caps he received for Ireland (four in the Six Nations and three in the Summer Tour) with further appearances in November but he picked up a thumb injury in Munster’s draw with Castres in October.
The injury subsequently required surgery and the 25-year-old didn’t make his comeback until his side travelled to Welford Road to take on the Leicester Tigers at the end of December. With a crucial block of interprovincial and Champions Cup fixtures on the horizon, this would have been the perfect opportunity to build some form ahead of the Six Nations but injury struck again.
Scannell lasted just 52 minutes of Munster’s loss to Ulster in Belfast on New Year’s Day where he picked up a rib injury. He made his comeback as Munster beat Castres to secure a home quarter-final at the end of January but timing is a cruel thing – that comeback took place four days after Joe Schmidt announced his squad for the Six Nations and due to Scannell’s lack of game-time, he wasn’t selected.
Rory Best, Sean Cronin and Rob Herring were selected as Ireland’s hookers for the opening two rounds against France and Italy, in what is a hugely competitive position. This is something Scannell agrees with when he spoke to the media at the University of Limerick this week.
“It’s a hugely competitive position at the moment as you can see so I’m just concentrating on getting my stuff right this week against Zebre, getting some game time and hopefully showing a bit of form,” Scannell said.
Of course, the three-week break would have been difficult for Scannell as he is desperate to get some minutes under his belt and generate some form but he knows he has a battle on his hands to get back into the Ireland reckoning considering the good display by the Irish front-row in Paris on Saturday evening.
“Well Rory is obviously a very good scrummager and the Irish scrum, in general, has been going very well so that’s something I think I bring a lot to but it’s going so well at the moment it’s probably not something that they’re hugely looking out for which is a testament to how well all those guys up there [Irish Camp] are doing.
“They took on a massive French pack the last day and they were pretty successful in the scrum so fair play to them.”
Despite Scannell not being included in the initial Irish squad for the opening two rounds, that doesn’t mean the lines of communication have been cut off with the Ireland head-coach and Scannell reveals a conversation with Schmidt where he accepted the Kiwi’s decision and was told to just concentrate on getting back on the pitch.
“Yeah, usually you would [get told parts of your game to work on] but at the moment I think the main thing for him was just getting back on the pitch and get playing so that’s pretty much as simple as it was.
“I didn’t have a huge argument, I said I appreciate his decision. He picked the guys that were on form and playing so I just got to get back on the pitch but I’m sure if I get a few games under my belt he’ll give me a ring and give me a few more specific work-ons.”
Scannell admits that he’s relieved to still be in contact with Schmidt and that it’s when he is not contacting you is when you should be concerned.
“It’s good when he’s ringing you, when it’s radio silence, that’s when you’re obviously not in a good place!
“It’s good that he’s ringing me and that he is considering me, so fingers crossed now I’ll get a chance to put a few games together and you never know then.”
Scannell will get an opportunity to show Schmidt what he can do when Munster take on Zebre at Thomond Park on Saturday night.