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We're pleased we passed Axel's Liberty challenge, says Scannell

Physical battle: Niall Scannell
Physical battle: Niall Scannell

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Not too long ago, there was a school of thought in English football where the wet Tuesday night in Stoke was a barometer of a players' true ability.

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For the late Anthony Foley, the rugby equivalent was a Friday night at the Liberty Stadium and, while it was a Saturday evening, the current squad passed that test last weekend when they went to Swansea and won.

Although the Ospreys are not the force they once were, and were missing a slew of internationals for the game, they put up a fight and made life difficult for Munster.

But, while a five-point haul from an away game in Europe is always worth celebrating, the men in red have much bigger tests coming in their pool, with Racing 92 up on Saturday and Saracens to come in two weeks' time.

"I remember when I was a young player, Axel used to judge new signings on how they get on in the Liberty Stadium on a Friday night for him," hooker Niall Scannell said.

"And it's probably not a question that fellas like Jean de Villiers and stuff thought they'd be getting asked, but that really didn't leave me all week.

"I kind of knew that, despite a few of their results recently, they were going to be hugely up for it, and they didn't disappoint. They're massively physical, they really disrupted our breakdown and that forced us into a scenario where we were really chasing the game with 20 minutes to go.

"So in fairness to them, they gave us a big challenge, but naturally just watching Racing and Saracens, just the quality they're bringing to a lot of their game in terms of their ball carrying, physicality and stuff, it's going to be a huge challenge definitely.

"But that's what you expect in Europe and this group is going to be a group of death. We certainly knew what we were getting into there, anyway."

As Munster's thrower, Scannell will be aware of the threat Racing pose out of touch. Coach Johann van Graan has routinely held them up as the example of one of the best defensive lineouts in the game, while Donnacha Ryan has plenty of intel on the home side.

"It's nothing really hugely surprising to us because we've played against them in recent years, but when you watch them, some of their stuff looks so simple, but they're so effective at it," Scannell said.

"They're just such a strong and athletic pack and they're clinical... obviously Donnacha has had a huge imprint on their lineout, we've spoken about that and it's going to be a huge challenge for us."

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