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Scannell: SA tour an ideal way to prep for Racing test

Niall Scannell of Munster. Photo: Sportsfile
Niall Scannell of Munster. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Munster hooker Niall Scannell has happy memories of his only other trip to South Africa when he captained Ireland as they stunned the Baby Boks in the opening match of the 2012 Junior World Cup.

Scannell led a team which also included JJ Hanrahan, Chris Farrell, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne who beat South Africa 23-19 in Stellenbosch.

"The last time I was here was 2012. We beat the hosts South Africa in the first game but then we lost to England," Scannell recalled.

"That tour was a great experience. That was my first time in South Africa and I have not been back since. It was my first proper tour for rugby and I really enjoyed it.

"This is a first tour for some of our younger players and that's important for them. It's (touring) a part of rugby and something to be enjoyed.

"I've never had a tour either with Munster but it's something we will have to get used to now with the South African teams involved (in the PRO14)."

Scannell hopes to celebrate his 26th birthday on Sunday, preferably on the back of a win over the Southern Kings in George on Saturday evening in the opening game of their two-match tour.

The match will take place in CJ Stander's home town and while the players are delighted for him to have such an occasion, they haven't being making it easy for the Irish No 8.

"It's a big occasion for CJ going back to his home town," explained Corkonian Scannell.

"He's probably trying to downplay it in the group but we're all telling him that it's the Lord Mayor coming back to George to play.

"It is brilliant for a guy to go so far from home to make a name for himself.

"He probably didn't think he'd get a chance to come back and have this occasion.

"It's a huge motivation factor for him but we can all take a bit of inspiration from that. It will be great for him to have a big performance and for us to get the win.

"If there were a few tall tales told about George we will find it out in the next couple days. We are all looking forward to it," he added with a smile.

He insisted Munster have put their dramatic Champions Cup win over Toulon behind them and are now focused on these two games before turning their attention to Racing 92 in Bordeaux in just over two weeks.

"It was great to get the win the last day but now we must focus on the two matches here in South Africa," said Scannell, who won the first of his seven Irish caps last year against Italy.

"Sometimes you can get caught off guard in the heat. This season we played Castres and it was about 25C and we weren't ready.

"You can get really panicked about your hydration and things like that but coming out here we have known about it and we have had good preparation.

"This will also help us as we prepare for Bordeaux in a couple weeks but most of our squad at this stage know what's involved in playing in this heat. It certainly won't be an excuse."

Irish Independent

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