Saturday 21 September 2019

Rory's story a novel twist in Munster drama

Scannell one of many young talents to emerge from difficult campaign

Rory Scannell delivered the final word on Munster’s season with a two-try display. Photo: Sportsfile
Rory Scannell delivered the final word on Munster’s season with a two-try display. Photo: Sportsfile

Ending with a grace note can often make it easier to anticipate there may be some sweeter music to come.

Rory Scannell, with the second half of a try-scoring brace, delivered the final word on Munster's season on the day that he officially concluded his three-year residency in the Academy.

This summer, he will earn his first development contract, with the prospect of a fully-fledged deal to come next year; one senses that he will be fast-tracked to a higher pay grade sooner than that.

He has had a decent head-start. It's not just the fact that he has featured in all but a low-key brace of his side's games this season but how impressively he has done so, filling the breach left by Denis Hurley's injury.

"One fella's knock gives another an opportunity," said Anthony Foley in the wake of the win over Scarlets. "If Denis hadn't gone maybe Rory doesn't get as much game time and he hasn't had as much exposure as others."

Foley has constantly refused to ape the manager of his soccer heroes, Manchester United, by claiming any credit for promoting youth this term amidst a slew of injuries and retirements to key figures.

It's one thing opening a window of opportunity; quite another to clamber through it.


International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

Another of the impressively packaged rugby talents who shun the requirement to be built like WWE freaks, Dolphin product Scannell has been a beacon amidst so much gloom this term.

Less than six feet tall, and with his 95kg frame barely bursting from him in his standing, he still packs a mighty punch in midfield, with a deceptive power in the carry and, steadily, an improving awareness in defence.

If it didn't feel like he was shouldering the weight of anxiety from the supporters during this season of toil, it was simply because he was blissfully ignorant of it.

The advantage of his youth this term was an absence of expectation, a blank canvas, upon which he could imprint his own novel signature.

"Coming into the season I was hoping to pick up a few games here and there, then I got a few starts and I was just trying to build on those and enjoy every game I got," says Scannell.

"I haven't really looked back since. I've played most games since and it's been a great learning curve for me.

"There's a lot of Academy lads coming through that have signed on for next year with a lot of games under their belt throughout the season so we've a good crop of young talent coming through. It's looking good.

"We lost a few experienced lads but I didn't know any different as I didn't really play very much with those guys last year. I've played a lot with the younger lads through Munster A, so I felt more comfortable playing with those guys.

"As the season's gone on more leaders have stood up, and as guys get more experience that leadership comes as well. CJ (Stander) has become a great leader now. All the internationals are just top-class leaders and we learn a lot from them so I hope to bring that forward now.

"You get your first few games and you're very nervous. You're trying to do the basics well and lads around you are trying to get familiar with you, too. The older lads, more experienced lads, Francis Saili, Keith Earls, Conor Murray - they've been great - I've learned a lot from them.

"As you play with those lads around you then you keep learning and you become more comfortable, your confidence grows and you begin to come out of your shell a little bit. That's how it went since Christmas for me and I've really enjoyed it.

"When you're a young fella you just like to stay quiet. When you're playing regularly you build up that confidence to speak up and have your say as well. We're here to help each other and as players we love learning from each other. So, if I see something I'll tell the lads and vice versa.

"I suppose you look at all those past experiences and the Champions Cup has been massive for this club. It's important for the club that we're in the competition. We hope to have a good campaign next year because that's where we want to be, at the top of Europe. Hopefully, we can bring the club back there now."

As much as the leadership figures have drive Munster in tough times, the emerging players - Scannell's brother, hooker Niall, has also broke, through due to injury this term - have inspired their elders in times of strife.

"Rory Scannell playing with knocks shows what the jersey means," noted Stander, who can see this talented group develop into a side fighting to win titles, rather than scrapping for mid-table mediocrity.

"It's hard because it's only in time you'll see that," said Foley. "The club doesn't want to be in that situation where you're scrambling to get into Europe.

"You want to be dominating and making sure you're in the knockouts and all that and these players need to understand the reasons why we're not there and why we weren't in the knockouts in Europe.

"They also need to understand they have the ability to do it, understanding the key moments in the game and where the games can flow for you or against you."

Scannell is invested, already, with a steely-eyed certainty.

Although he has played, superbly, across the back-line for Emerging Ireland and the U-20s, and starred at out-half for Munster this season, there is no prevarication about his preference; he is the archetypal second five-eighth.

"That's where I want to be playing," he says, simply.

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport