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Scannells Join Irish Rugby’s Growing ‘Band Of Brothers’

Scannells Join Irish Rugby’s Growing ‘Band Of Brothers’

Niall and Rory Scannell are the latest set of brothers to start a Test match together for Ireland. There have been a few before them in the modern era – the Wallaces, the Easterbys, the Bests and the Kearneys.

Irish international rugby is steeped with family links down through the years, and it was a hugely proud moment for the Scannells from Douglas, County Cork when hooker Niall (25) and centre Rory (23) lined out together in last Saturday’s 50-22 win over Japan in Shizuoka.

They were the first brothers to do so in the green jersey since Leinster’s Kearneys, Rob and Dave, in February 2016, and thought to be the 56th pair of brothers to play for Ireland at the highest level of the game. Indeed, the IRFU have capped more brothers than any other tier 1 nation.

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Ireland’s line of Test-playing brothers stretches way back to the late 1800s and early 1900s when the likes of the Rosses (Daniel, John and Joseph), the Magees (Joseph and Louis) and the Harveys (George and Thomas) all started international fixtures together.


RICHARD WALLACE (29 caps/5 tries, 1991-1998) & PAUL WALLACE (45 caps/5 tries, 1995-2002)

Two of the multi-talented Wallace brothers started together for Ireland in the mid-to-late 1990s, with winger Richard and prop Paul’s careers overlapping. Coincidentally, given the week that is in it, Paul made his debut in the 1995 Rugby World Cup pool win over Japan, featuring at tighthead with Richard on the right wing.

The wiry winger was a Lions tourist in New Zealand in 1993 and went on to become a pilot and airline captain. He is now Head of Standards with CityJet in Dublin. Richard scored three of his five tries in his first six outings for Ireland, touching down against Wales, Scotland and Australia – all at Lansdowne Road – and also starred for the national Sevens side.

Tighthead Paul followed in his brother’s footsteps onto the international scene, a bulkier version but just as impactful as his older sibling. Renowned as an excellent technical scrummager, he was the cornerstone of the Lions’ 1997 scrum – a key element in their series win in South Africa – and played in two World Cups. Now a pundit on screen, radio and in print, Paul is Managing Director of commercial property firm Bircroft Ireland.

Richard Wallace – “It’s very odd (us playing in three different positions). I can’t explain it. Paul used to be the quickest to the dinner table but then he lost his speed, perhaps because he ate too much. Davey’s like a cross between the two of us, except that he’s a couple of inches taller than us.”

Ireland Starts Together:

v Japan, Bloemfontein, May 1995
v Fiji, Lansdowne Road, November 1995
v USA, Atlanta, January 1996
v Samoa, Lansdowne Road, November 1996
v Scotland, Lansdowne Road, February 1998
v France, Stade de France, March 1998
v Wales, Lansdowne Road, March 1998
v England, Twickenham, April 1998

PAUL WALLACE (45 caps/5 tries, 1995-2002) & DAVID WALLACE (72 caps/12 tries, 2000-2011)

Paul also had the pleasure of playing with the youngest Ireland-capped Wallace, strong-carrying flanker David, on one occasion. It was an historic one as there were two sets of brothers on the field from kick-off. Simon and Guy Easterby joined the Wallaces in helping Ireland to a record 83-3 victory over the USA during the 2000 summer tour.

Paul’s nine remaining Ireland caps were won as a replacement as a broken ankle and persistent complications with it afterwards led to his retirement from rugby in 2003 at the age of 32. Injuries also affected David’s career but he went on to top his brothers with 72 caps and 12 tries for Ireland, winning the 2009 Grand Slam, a number of Triple Crowns and also domestic and European titles with Munster.

Of course, the Wallaces, whose father Michael played rugby for Cobh Pirates and London Irish, made history as the only three members of one family to play for the Lions. David, who was an athletic combination of Richard’s pace and Paul’s power, played in all three 2009 Tests against South Africa. Now proprietor of a Mr. Simm’s sweet shop in his native Limerick, he was recently appointed as Bank of Ireland business development manager for the Munster region.

Paul Wallace – “(Playing different positions) was to stop us going at each other, I guess. I used to play with Richie and he was on the wing and I was prop and sure we’d hardly see each other during a game. When you were playing against each other, it also made it a bit easier. I was a back row to start with though, so there was a little bit of familiarity with Dave on that one. And our other brother Henry was also a flanker.”

Ireland Starts Together:

v USA, Manchester, New Hampshire, June 2000

SIMON EASTERBY (65 caps (2 as captain)/8 tries, 2000-2008) & GUY EASTERBY (28 caps/6 tries, 2000-2005)

The Easterbys, whose mother Katherine played hockey for Ireland, began the new millennium with a bang, scrum half Guy making his debut alongside flanker Simon in Ireland’s aforementioned 80-point trouncing of the USA in Manchester, New Hampshire. The siblings scored two tries apiece in what remains Ireland’s record win at Test level.

Simon and Guy, both noted leaders with clever rugby brains, went on to win 93 Ireland caps between them, with the former also earning Lions honours in 2005. They started together six times for Ireland and remain very much at the heart of Irish rugby as current Ireland forwards coach and Leinster’s head of rugby operations respectively.

After impressing at the helm of the Scarlets, Simon has been Ireland forwards coach since July 2014 – winning the Six Nations title in his first season in the coaching set-up. Guy returned to Leinster as chief scout in 2008 and then assumed the role of team manager in 2010, playing an important part in the most successful period in the province’s history.

Paddy ‘Rala’ O’Reilly – “Simon, as a player and a person, had been responsible for some great memories. I’ll certainly never forget him or his brother Guy, who I refer to as the ‘Easterbunnies’.”

Ireland Starts Together:

v USA, Manchester, New Hampshire, June 2000
v Scotland, Murrayfield, September 2001
v Tonga, Nuku’alofa, June 2003
v Samoa, Apia, June 2003
v Italy, Thomond Park, August 2003
v USA, Lansdowne Road, November 2004

SIMON BEST (23 caps/1 try, 2003-2007) & RORY BEST (104 caps (19 as captain)/8 tries, 2005-)

Prop Simon led the way in the Best household, winning the first of his 23 Ireland caps in a 2003 summer tour match in Tonga. A specialist tighthead who could also play loosehead, he captained his country twice against Argentina in mid-2007, just a few months before a heart condition sadly ruled him out of his second World Cup and eventually led to his retirement in 2008.

The elder Best now runs the family’s Acton House Farm in Poyntzpass with dad John and is a coach and committee member at Banbridge RFC. The Best brothers started together in the Irish scrum in a nail-biting 19-18 win over Scotland at Murrayfield in March 2007. Simon was at loosehead with John Hayes at tighthead.

Rory has gone on to become one of the country’s greatest ever hookers, amassing over 100 caps and captaining Ireland 19 times to date as well as leading the Lions twice. Currently on tour with the Lions in New Zealand, the 2009 Grand Slam winner and three-time Six Nations champion was honoured in the past week with an OBE for services to rugby.

Simon Best – “Rory did me a big favour early in his career when schools selectors tried to convert him to prop. He was adamant he wanted to play hooker and stuck at it, an early sign of his determination and will to prove people wrong. That stood him in good stead. His resilience has been phenomenal. He’s had some big knocks to confidence at various stages but his ability to take these on the chin, come out fighting and strive to improve has been one of his most enduring characteristics.”

Ireland Starts Together:

v Scotland, Murrayfield, March 2007

ROB KEARNEY (76 caps/13 tries/1 conversion, 2007-) & DAVE KEARNEY (16 caps/3 tries, 2013-)

The Kearneys from the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth have the distinction of being the brothers who have started the most games together for Ireland. Their 11-match record runs from that heartbreaking 2013 defeat to New Zealand through to last year’s Six Nations clash with France in Paris.

Winger Dave, who turned 28 two days ago, has been hampered by injuries in recent seasons but really excelled during Ireland’s 2014 Six Nations title win, starting all five games as did brother and two-time Lions tourist Rob, who has been a near constant in the number 15 jersey since the 2009 Grand Slam campaign.

Skilful, quick and effective on both sides of the ball as well as in the air, the Kearney siblings are almost prototype backs for the cut and thrust of the modern game. They scored four tries between them during the pool stages of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Rob Kearney – “The proudest moments in my career have been when the two of us are standing arm-in-arm belting out Amhrán na bhFiann, and we look up to the stands and see mum, dad, (our brother) Richard and (sister) Sarah.”

Ireland Starts Together:

v New Zealand, Lansdowne Road, November 2013
v Scotland, Lansdowne Road, February 2014
v Wales, Lansdowne Road, February 2014
v England, Twickenham, February 2014
v Italy, Lansdowne Road, March 2014
v France, Stade de France, March 2014
v Wales, Lansdowne Road, August 2015
v Canada, Millennium Stadium, September 2015
v France, Millennium Stadium, October 2015
v Argentina, Millennium Stadium, October 2015
v France, Stade de France, February 2016

NIALL SCANNELL (6 caps/1 try, 2017-) & RORY SCANNELL (2 caps/3 conversions, 2017-)

2017 has been a year to remember for the Scannell family with Niall and Rory both starring in Munster’s resurgence under Rassie Erasmus and earning international recognition with eight Ireland caps between them since February.

Close in age at 25 and 23-and-a-half respectively, the pair boast an impressive rugby pedigree having come up through the ranks at PBC Cork, Dolphin, Ireland underage sides and Munster – they became the first brothers to start a PRO12 game for Munster away to the Dragons last season.

Former Ireland U-20 and Dolphin captain Niall made the breakthrough with Ireland last February, starting against Italy in the absence of Rory Best. Goal-kicking centre Rory joined him by making his debut as a replacement against the USA a week-and-a-half ago, and the pair were both starters against Japan last Saturday. It has been a proud few months for the Scannell family, with youngest brother Billy – a hooker like Niall – playing for the Ireland Under-18 Schools team over Easter.

Rory Scannell – “It was an exciting day for us and a great family occasion (us both playing against the USA). I’m delighted to win a first cap and it was even better to have the brother out there as well.”

Ireland Starts Together:

v Japan, Shizuoka, June 2017