IT’S been a stellar year for Dolphin’s Niall Scannell after he was yesterday named on the bench for Ireland’s Six Nations opener against Scotland at Murrayfield.
It will be a bittersweet occasion should he come on with younger brother Rory allowed to return to provincial duty with Munster after Ian Keatley was chosen on experience ahead of the younger of the Scannell brothers.
This time last year Niall was playing an away game against Zebre in the PRO12 League but personal and team form in the PRO12 and European Champions Cup has seen the hooker land the number 16 jersey for his country and a chance to make his debut.
Scannell is a former Ireland U20 captain, the Dolphin club man is a product of the Munster development pathway, captaining PBC to a Munster Schools Senior Cup title before entering the Greencore Munster Academy.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has named seven Munster players in his side with CJ Stander, Keith Earls, Simon Zebo and Conor Murray all starting while Berrings man John Ryan, named in his first Six Nations squad, Keatley and Scannell are named on the bench.
Speaking at yesterday’s team announcement, Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt stated that Donnacha Ryan took a limited part in training this week due to a medial ligament niggle with Peter O'Mahony remaining a doubt for the Italy game due to a hamstring complaint.
Meanwhile, Munster boss Rassie Erasmus has had to ring the changes in his side as a result of the Six Nations.
Jaco Taute plays his first game at full-back for the province which allows Erasmus to play Francis Saili at 13 alongside Dan Goggin.
Kanturk’s Peter McCabe, who had to return from a short term loan to Connacht, starts at looshead. He starts in the front-row alongside Rhys Marshall and Stephen Archer. Youghal’s Dave O’Callaghan will play on the blindside meaning Jack O’Donoghue is back to his favoured number eight jersey with Conor Oliver at seven.
Munster’s strength in depth has been re-inforced with the strength of their bench with Rory Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Billy Holland and Tommy O’Donnell all starting on the bench.