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'I can see why they love smashing us so much now' - Munster relishing South African influence

Niall Scannell on the “different and exciting” new approach in Munster.

Munster's Niall Scannell and Tommy O'Donnell tackle John Barclay during last weekend's game against Scarlets.
Munster's Niall Scannell and Tommy O'Donnell tackle John Barclay during last weekend's game against Scarlets.
Image: Camerasport/Paul Jenkins/INPHO

MUNSTER HOOKER NIALL Scannell says he is looking forward to being part of Munster’s ‘smashing’ squad again this weekend under the watch of defence coach Jacques Nienaber.

As part of the South African’s defensive plan for Munster, the squad have been given permission to tear into the tackle with a real freedom, and Scannell is enjoying the challenge.

Scarlets were first to taste Munster’s new-found ferocity, and on Friday night Cardiff Blues are next up at Musgrave Park.

After working with Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus for the last couple of months, Scannell now knows why South African-coached players tackle with a smile on their faces.

“There’s nothing hugely different technically to what we were doing last year but I suppose it’s just that there’s so much energy and enthusiasm, and it’s rewarding if you’re getting off that line and trying to put shots on guys,” said Scannell.

“I think that’s something you will have seen from other teams in the league with a South African coaching influence in the last few years.

“I can kind of see why they love smashing us so much now because Jacques really brings that excitement to it and that reward for getting off the line and making your hits.

“So technically not a huge amount, more the approach he’s brought to it. It’s different and exciting for us at the moment.”

This week was difficult for Scannell and his Munster teammates following the announcement of Johnny Holland’s forced retirement. Scannell says the loss of his Cork colleague is a tough one to take for everyone involved in the squad.

Niall Scannell Niall Scannell speaking to the media at UL earlier this week. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Personally for me, it was probably a bit more emotional. I came through the academy with Johnny. I’ve known Johnny since we were 16 or 17.

“You know, it hits home a lot when it’s a guy that you’re quite close to since that age. He has been a consummate professional, always done what he is supposed to do; the right things around nutrition, training, work ethic and even his attitude to rehab.

“I was there the night it [the injury] happened against Nottingham and I never had seen Johnny go down like that so I knew it was serious.

“When you’ve gone through all the ups and downs with a player over the years, it’s tough. I just want to wish him the best of luck with whatever he does next. I know he’ll be fine.”

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