Sunday 21 January 2018

Scannell brothers set for Ireland’s Six Nations squad

Niall Scannell, here in action for Munster against Racing 92 on Saturday, is tipped to be called into the Ireland squad today along with his younger brother Rory. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Niall Scannell, here in action for Munster against Racing 92 on Saturday, is tipped to be called into the Ireland squad today along with his younger brother Rory. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Joe Schmidt is set to reward Munster brothers Niall and Rory Scannell for their excellent form this season with a call up to their first Six Nations squad.

Ireland will announce their squad for the opening two rounds of the Six Nations against Scotland and Italy today, and the uncapped duo are likely to be included.

Centre Rory (23) was called up for Ireland's final game in November against Australia and although he missed out on the match-day squad, he was at the Aviva as the 24th man.

Since then, he has played a major role in ensuring that Munster are back in the knockout stages of Europe

Jared Payne's kidney injury has opened up a gap in midfield and although Garry Ringrose is likely to slot in alongside his Leinster team-mate Robbie Henshaw, Scannell's versatility may well lead to him winning his first cap before the end of the tournament.

Scannell's older brother Niall (24) has made the hooker position his own at Munster, and with Sean Cronin (hamstring) ruled out of the Six Nations, he will battle it out for the back-up spot to Rory Best along with Leinster's James Tracy, who won his first cap against Canada in November.

Johnny Sexton will undergo a scan on the calf injury that forced him off after just 22 minutes of Leinster's draw in Castres on Friday night but he will take his place in the squad before a decision on his fitness is be made.

Following his Racing 92 side's defeat to Munster on Saturday, Ronan O'Gara revealed that he had spoken to Sexton who said that he was "confident" he hadn't suffered a tear.

"I spoke to him last night, and he's fine. He had a bruise and he got another knock on it, so thankfully I don't think it's a tear," O'Gara said.

"If you get a knock on the calf it's completely different to having a stretch on the calf. He seems confident and I've every reason to believe he'll be fine."

Sean O'Brien revealed on Friday that he suffered a "little tear" in his calf during Leinster's win over Zebre two weeks ago but he is also confident of being fit for Scotland on February 4.

"It's just a 10 day kind of injury," the Tullow native confirmed.

Having missed the summer tour of South Africa due to his wedding and been left out for the November internationals, Munster flanker Tommy O'Donnell is in line for a recall.

Winger Andrew Conway's form has also not gone unnoticed by Schmidt and after another impressive performance against Racing over the weekend, he will have hoped to force his way into the reckoning.

Impact

Connacht's Sean O'Brien made an impact from the bench in Toulouse yesterday and having spent time in Carton House recently, he is pushing for inclusion but he faces stiff competition from Jack Conan, who has been outstanding for Leinster in recent weeks.

Keith Earls will recover from a couple of recent niggles to take his place in the squad but a hand injury has put prop James Cronin's Six Nations in doubt.

Meanwhile, Henshaw believes that Leinster are good enough to win the Champions Cup in his first season with the province.

Leinster will face Premiership leaders Wasps in a mouthwatering quarter-final clash and Henshaw is adamant that they can win their fourth European Cup.

"I think we can go all the way," the centre insisted. "We showed that in a load of areas in this competition. We are getting better and better, and the strength in depth in the squad is unbelievable.

"But we are taking it one step at a time and not looking too far forward. We turn the page now and we go away to Six Nations camp.

"This team is an exceptional team and it's great to be playing with them."

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