‘I’d sacrifice holidays for that any day’ - Niall Scannell on travelling to New Zealand as a late replacement

‘Things change and my wife was very accepting of that. She helped me get packed and get on the road to Faro airport’

When a late replacement is called up from his summer holidays to join a touring squad the temptation is to imagine him sipping a cocktail by a pool or catching a few waves when the phone rings. But the time difference between New Zealand and Portugal ensured this wasn’t the case when Andy Farrell rang Niall Scannell at around 11am local time in Auckland on Sunday.

“When Faz rang me he did note that it was about midnight. ‘Good job, you’re still up anyway’. I was enjoying a few beverages with my wife and my brothers over in Alvor in Portugal.

“Walking back into them to tell them I was going to have to leave straight away because I was going to New Zealand was a great buzz. They were delighted for me and Maeve, my wife, was delighted as well,” said Scannell, whose last appearance for an Irish side was in the 2019 World Cup quarter-final defeat by New Zealand.

Maeve helped him pack what little he had for an Irish tour in New Zealand and returned to work in Ireland so as to keep the remainder of her annual leave.

“Yeah, so she’ll still have a few days’ annual leave when I get back. Hopefully if her boss reads this he might give her another few days but, in fairness to her, she’s great. It is very tough for the families when there’s a bit of the unknown and when you’re left off the initial squad you make your own plans. But then things change and she was very accepting of that. She helped me get packed and get on the road to Faro airport.”

Pending the arrival of his gear bag by courier for Wednesday’s tour opener against the Maori All Blacks, which Ireland lost 32-17, team-mates had a whip round and Andrew Porter provided him with a pair of his boots.

“Yeah, and jeeze they were all right at scrum time in fairness to him. I must inquire about keeping them. The only problem was that they said: “Final _ Marseille _ Champions Cup” on them, which was a hard one for a Munster man to wear. But the minute I came in the door he said he had the same size and gave them to me.”

“To be fair they were all rowing in with boots, gum shield, shoulder pads, gear, the whole lot. I just had to get my part as best as I could, in terms of learning the lineouts and the plays, and things like that.

“Obviously the performance didn’t go the way we planned but I was delighted to get some game time and just to be back in camp is great for me and hugely energising. Yeah, I’d sacrifice holidays for that any day.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times