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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 16 August, 2018
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Munster hooker focusing on Pro14 but ready for Ireland call

Niall Scannell knows from this time last year that it might only take an injury or two for him to be propelled into Six Nations duty.

Munster's Niall Scannell.
Munster's Niall Scannell.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MUNSTER HOOKER NIALL Scannell said he is not looking beyond Saturday’s Pro14 clash with Zebre as he continues an injury-ravaged season, which has seen him make just four starts.

But the 25-year old knows from this time last year that it might only take an injury or two for him to be propelled into Six Nations duty, so he is on alert.

Last year, a stomach bug suffered by Rory Best paved the way for the Cork native to be drafted straight into the team for his Irish debut against Italy.

And with Sean Cronin missing last year’s Six Nations with a hamstring injury, Scannell went on to win further caps against France, Wales and England, before bringing his international tally to seven during the summer when he played against USA and in the games in Japan.

But a thumb injury away to Castres in October and then a rib injury over the festive period against Ulster have led to a disrupted campaign and while getting back into the mix with Munster and vying with Rhys Marshall for the Number 2 shirt, he knows he needs to be ready in case a call comes from Joe Schmidt.

“For my first cap, two weeks before it I thought I was nowhere near it … two weeks later, Rory Best is sick, Sean Cronin was injured and I was starting against Italy.

“Those things happen but I wouldn’t be banking on anything like that. But I do have to prepare myself the best I can and fingers crossed, if you’re on form and playing, you’re in the mix. Sometimes being available is better than your form,” said Scannell, who has chalked up 66 appearances for Munster since his debut against Scarlets in December 2013.

Younger brother Rory is in the Irish squad and a busy period for the Scannell household includes the exploits of another brother Billy — also a hooker — for Pres in the Munster schools senior cup.

“Every game this season means a lot to me. This is a huge opportunity to get game time and to be honest, I’m focusing on the game for what it is. A lot of people are asking me about the Six Nations squad but that’s not my focus.

“I just want to get on the pitch against a hugely physical Zebre team and put my best foot forward, there’s a massive battle going on down here as well for the hooker spot, so any game time I can get is huge at the moment,” added Scannell.

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John Fallon

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