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Six Nations: Ireland debutant Scannell fulsome in his praise for ruled-out Best's thoughtful words of support

By Jonathan Bradley

After Ireland romped home against Italy on Saturday, debuting hooker Niall Scannell thanked Rory Best for how the ailing skipper helped prepare the young Munsterman.

Scannell was on the bench against Scotland last week and remained an unused replacement, but he got his chance from the start in Rome after Best took ill on Thursday evening.

The 24-year-old equipped himself well at the Stadio Olimpico, especially after finding out he would start only four hours before kick-off, and praised Best for how the 101-cap stalwart helps his younger rivals in camp.

"Rory is our captain and he was going to be given every chance to come through - unfortunately he just wasn't able to," said Scannell.

"The consecutive Six Nations involvements he has (51 straight games before Saturday) is frightening, so he must have been pretty bad not to take part.

"I only heard late but Rory has been very good to me the last few weeks, building me into the set-up and helping with calls and everything. He's been top notch.

"I was disappointed for him but then quickly had to switch over to making sure I could fill his boots a bit.

"He spoke to me Friday night just saying he was a bit ill so be ready to start. To be honest, he gives me messages all the time and helps me with every aspect of the game. It's been no different the last few days. He helped me get prepped to be where I needed to be. "There wasn't anything special needed today.

"My usual attitude would be to prepped for everything because in the professional game these things happen all the time.

"So I was prepped when I got the heads up he was ill, it was confirmed this morning he was out.

"So it was good to have those few hours to take a deep breath, get settled and know what I had to do for the day."

And while his captain was able to pass on a few words of wisdom throughout the week, congratulations elsewhere had been kept to a minimum, perhaps after the disappointment of watching all 80 minutes a week prior.

"Most of them were on of the way last week hoping that I would get on so they were probably afraid of getting on to me this time," joked the Cork native.

"To be honest, I put the phone on Do Not Disturb. You just have to knuckle down.

" From the morning, I wasn't really interacting with people.

"That's what I'd do for most big games so I did the same for this game and tried to stick to routine as much as I could, then build into the game from there."

Filling the shoes of Best, Scannell showed up well in the loose early on, admitting that his multiple swift involvements helped settle the nerves.

"It was good to get my hands on the ball and get involved," he said. "All those things are kind of bonuses.

"All the way through you're thinking get your set-piece right and get the throws and scrums right. "But I got my hands on the ball and defensively I made a few hits, - that's all you can look to do, fit in and give the team what they need.

"At the moment, I think I did that but I'll have to review it and there's probably a lot of things to work on.

"I was obviously quite nervous going into it being my first cap. I was probably a bit disappointed not to get on against Scotland last week but the circumstances just dictated that was the case.

"So to go from that to starting this week was brilliant. And it was good to get in there and get a good start and I was quite happy with the performance.

"There are little things I need to work on and I am looking forward to reviewing it and just putting the head down now," he added.

Belfast Telegraph

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