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Munster centre Scannell hungry for more Ireland caps after missing out on Oz

The 24-year-old is excited about some of the signings Johann van Graan has made.

HAVING SPENT THE entire Grand Slam campaign in Ireland’s training squad and travelled with Joe Schmidt’s team as 24th man twice in the Six Nations, Rory Scannell hoped that the June tour to Australia would provide him with an opportunity to add to his three caps.

Disappointingly for the Munster midfielder, he missed out on heading Down Under as Schmidt opted for only three centres in his touring squad in the shape of Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki.

Munster's Rory Scannell Scannell has long been a key man for Munster. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Having delivered impressively consistent performances for his province last season, Scannell must now set about underlining his quality again as Munster begin their campaign with a pre-season clash against London Irish this evening in Cork.

Helping Johann van Graan’s team to get beyond the semi-final hurdle this season is a big motivation but 24-year-old Scannell’s Ireland ambitions remain strong.

“It was great getting the full Six Nations training under my belt,” said the Cork man. “I was in and out the season before, but to get that eight weeks with a Grand Slam side was a great experience.

“It makes you that bit hungrier to push on and get into the match-day squads as well. So, it was disappointing not to get game time, but you’re not too far off as well. Hopefully, I can push on this year and get a few inclusions in the match-day squad.

“I’d a chat with Joe before the summer tour, I was obviously disappointed to miss out on that.

“There were a few things to work on - Bundee, Robbie and Garry are big, physical centres. I like the physical side of things as well, but I also add something different having played a bit at number 10 before.

“So, if I can match their physicality and bring that little extra on a consistent basis then hopefully I can push my way in.”

Starting his season strongly with Munster will go a long way towards Scannell being back in the Ireland mix for the November Tests, and he is convinced that the province are set up to deliver after their first pre-season under van Graan, who joined during last season.

Susan Brady with Billy Burns, Jack Conan, Robin Copeland, and Rory Scannell Rory Scannell was speaking at an eir Sport event to announce that its first Pro14 broadcast, Cardiff Blues v Leinster, will be made free-to-air. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The South African head coach has put an emphasis on Munster’s passing skills this summer after they let themselves down in that area in the Pro14 semi-final against Leinster in particular.

Van Graan has also welcomed some exciting new signings into his squad, with Ireland internationals Joey Carbery and Tadhg Beirne joined by Garryowen scrum-half Neil Cronin, South African back row Arno Both and Irish-qualified fullback Mike Haley.

Scannell describes the Springboks-capped Botha as “an absolute monster of a man,” while he says he’s excited to play alongside Carbery.

“I’d have trained with him a lot with Ireland. He’s exciting, he has that X-factor as we’ve all seen many times.”

24-year-old Haley is perhaps a less-heralded signing but Scannell is certain he can make a big impression.

“He’s very exciting, just watching him in training,” says Scannell. “He has experience too, more than 100 games for Sale,  he’s only young. With Zeebs [Simon Zebo] leaving, there was a lot of talk about that, I don’t think people really know how good Mike is.

“I’m sure over the next few weeks they’ll see how exciting he is to watch and to play with as well.”

With van Graan having hinted that Munster will be slightly more attacking-minded further out the pitch this season, Scannell is hopeful that the playmaking side of his game can flourish even further.

Rory Scannell Scannell on the ball against Toulon last season. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s a good strength of mine; that left-footed kicking option as well, being able to attack both sides of the ruck with Joey, myself, Keats [Ian Keatley], JJ [Hanrahan]. Hopefully, guys can flourish and show their skill sets.”

Those skills will be vital for Munster as they look to take the next step after repeated semi-final pain, but they’re also aware that they need to be better in the top few inches too.

“We’re working a lot on the technical side, but the mental side is very important,” says Scannell. “We’ve got to the stage where we’re in semi-finals and wondering are we a bit mentally weak, trying to put the finger on why we can’t take the step further.

“The technical side will help, but we have to learn with the big game pressure as well; from an individual basis and a team basis. That’s a work-on for us because the last two seasons we’ve had a pretty young squad.

“Now that we’ve had that exposure, hopefully we can push on and get to the semi-finals, finals and hopefully have a chance to win a trophy.”

Rory Scannell was speaking at the eir Sport announcement that its first broadcast, Cardiff Blues v Leinster, will be made free-to-air to celebrate the channel becoming the new home of rugby in Ireland.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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