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01st Sep 2017

Making Niall Scannell the fall guy for simply telling the truth is not on

No need for this

Patrick McCarry

“It’s brilliant that Rassie is staying around. It’s brilliant for our club and it’s brilliant for Irish rugby – the players he is bringing through and the confidence he has given us.”

That is what Niall Scannell told myself and a couple of other reporters after Munster had lost the Champions Cup semi-final to Saracens at the Aviva Stadium, in late April.

The Munster hooker had not offered up the news that Rassie Erasmus was staying. It has been coaxed from him 10 minutes after Erasmus himself had himself told a room full of journalists that he was definitely sticking around for 2017/18.

Asked what a relief it was for the players to know the South African was committing himself to Munster, Scannell replied:

“There was a lot of speculation but Rassie clarified it to us [that he was staying] a couple of weeks ago.”

So the news came out that Saturday evening, April 22, rather than on Monday, April 24. Scannell has paid the price since. His comments were discussed in front of the squad the week after that European defeat – a cautionary tale.

At the official PRO14 launch, Erasmus attempted to play down the April assertion that turned out to be a false dawn [his new job with the South African national team was announced in June]. For some bizarre reason, Scannell was the fall guy.

It wasn’t what he told reporters that was the issue, Erasmus explained, it was the hooker speaking too eagerly and readily. Erasmus commented:

“I think that was one guy who was caught off-guard. After we lost [the final], at the media conference they asked me how we lost and I said we had to accept [Saracens] outplayed us. That’s how far we had came and evolved in just 10 months.

‘One if the guys [journalists] asked me if I could take the evolution further and I said ‘Yes’ because at that stage, I didn’t engage with South Africa Rugby [Union]. My take was ‘One day, we’ll see’.

“Niall, in the online interviews, one of the guys [journalists] came up to him and said ‘Rassie is staying’. He replied that, yes, I had always been honest about telling them I’m staying. That chat was I’m staying but one day… It was only asked of Niall and he had got the message that I was staying.

“The players have been informed from day one. We have daily meetings and they know what is going on in my head.”

Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber deserve a huge amount of credit for what they achieved in their first season at Munster. They will hope to leave the province in good shape when they depart for home – be that January 2018 or sooner.

Both men should be remembered fondly by the Munster faithful but hanging Scannell out there was wrong. It is a new season and everyone has accepted Erasmus and Nienaber are leaving. There is no bad blood.

Dragging the player back into this when he was only speaking what he knew to be the truth does him absolutely no favours.

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