Thursday 30 March 2017

Alan Quinlan: IRFU can take share of credit for Scannell's development into an international hooker

'Niall Scannell handled the pressure of his debut brilliantly. Anyone who has watched him closely over the last couple of seasons won’t have been surprised by his assured display' Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
'Niall Scannell handled the pressure of his debut brilliantly. Anyone who has watched him closely over the last couple of seasons won’t have been surprised by his assured display' Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Alan Quinlan

The easy thing for people to say is that 'Italy were very poor and it wasn't a real test' but, in my opinion, that isn't the case.

Saturday was a massive test of resolve and the confidence Ireland will take from the performance was very much needed.

There would have been a few nerves within the group last week and that is understandable because of what happened in Murrayfield but it takes a good team to dismantle Italy in the ruthless manner that Ireland did.

The biggest issue against Scotland was Ireland's tempo, attitude and physicality but they brought that in bucket loads.

You've got to challenge the opposition mentally and physically and that's exactly what Ireland did. They deserve a lot of credit for that. Ireland made it a non-contest by blowing Italy out of the game in every facet. It was a record defeat and it couldn't have gone any better for Joe Schmidt's side.

The experienced players in the dressing room will have told the younger guys to enjoy the moment but they will also have warned them about the dangers of becoming over-confident as tougher tests lie ahead.

Across the board, Ireland's execution was excellent. Their lineout and scrum were rock-solid, although I would like to see the maul used more often. The next couple of weeks will provide ample time to work on that on the training pitch.

Niall Scannell handled the pressure of his debut brilliantly. Anyone who has watched him closely over the last couple of seasons won't have been surprised by his assured display.

He looked confident and totally at home at that level. One over-throw aside, his lineout throwing and scrummaging was excellent. He also made his presence felt around the pitch.

You go back to the criticism that the IRFU got last year when David Nucifora allegedly blocked Stephen Moore's move to Munster, but would we have seen Scannell make his debut, had the experienced Australian hooker come to Ireland?

Scannell has benefited hugely from regular game-time with Munster and he transferred that confidence into the green jersey. Nucifora can take his fair share of the credit for that.

Scannell is a level-headed guy and won't be getting carried away, especially because he was part of such a dominant pack. That won't always be the case but he has certainly proved to Schmidt that he can be trusted.

I've been in the situation before when you're called upon at the last minute and sometimes that can help because you don't have much time allow nerves build up but I think the way Scannell has consistently performed with Munster, it wouldn't have made any difference when he got the call from Schmidt.

It's a measure of Rory Best that he took Scannell under his wing when he first came into camp. With Seán Cronin to come back from injury and James Tracy also impressing on his Six Nations debut, hooker is beginning to look like a position of strength for Ireland.

There were strong performances throughout the Irish team but another in particular who caught my eye was Cian Healy. He has been so unlucky with injuries over the last couple of years but it's great to see him back to his best.

That lack of time that Scannell would have had to prepare himself in the build-up may have worked in his favour but the same can't be said for the Six Nations teams leading into the tournament. The challenge is to make the most of the limited time-frame that squads have together. Some teams will inevitably handle it better than others.

Ireland were caught cold in Murrayfield which has left them with no wiggle room but this bonus-point win keeps them well in the hunt.

Had Wales managed to hang on to beat England, it would have blown the competition wide open but a two-point gap is not insurmountable.

The defeat against Scotland was a couple of steps backwards but this confidence-boosting win has got Ireland moving in the right direction again.

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport