Rugby Union / Five Nations' Championship: Quinnell draws strength from a dynasty: Giant promise of family heir looms over the Principality. Tim Glover reports

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The Independent Online
SCOTT QUINNELL, his collarless shirt bearing the logo Giorgio Moscow, saunters through the hotel lobby looking more like a holidaymaker than the man described as the most promising young forward in Britain.

One of the first people he sees is his father and there is business to discuss and tickets for the match to be sorted out. 'I've got hundreds of family,' Scott explained.

Derek Quinnell has had a hard day at the office; Scott has been working out with the Wales squad.

'A good session?' Derek asks.

'Very good,' Scott replies,'but I'm feeling a bit stiff now.'

'So you bloody well should be.'

The days when Quinnell could give his son a clip round the ear have probably long gone. Scott is the latest prodigy in a West Wales dynasty and Quinnell Snr, a national selector, could have been accused of nepotism in reverse if his son had not been chosen to make his Five Nations debut against Scotland at Cardiff today. Scott's mother, Madora, has spent her life clearing up muddy boots. Her four brothers all played rugby, Barry John being the exceptionally gifted one. Alan and Clive also played for Llanelli, while the career of Del was interrupted by a mining accident in which he lost an eye. The boots are still piling up.

Madora and Derek have three large rugby playing sons, Scott being the eldest at 21. 'I'm a bit of a fanatic myself,' Mrs Quinnell said.' I probably watch three games a week.' So far Scott is doing an impressive job of filling the boots of his illustrious father. 'If I can do half what he did it would be a great achievement,' he said.

What about the pressure of having to live up to a famous name? 'I think it's tremendous to have a father like him. It's a big advantage. He's got such a good rugby brain. Every bit of advice goes a long way. He's not a pushy father. He's quite happy to let me go with the coaches but if I've ever needed help he's obliged.'

Derek's record includes the gem - only equalled here by the England hooker John Pullin - of being a four-time winner over the All Blacks, twice for the Lions, once for Llanelli and also in that 1973 epic for the Barbarians at Cardiff in which he had a considerable hand in the Gareth Edwards try.

At junior level Scott's exploits made him a marked man, at least in the eyes of the Welsh selectors. He has graduated, from Llanelli Under-11s, through Welsh Schools, Youth, Under-19, Under-21 and A sides and, in a successful run, established a reputation as a powerful No 8 who could also score tries, lots of them.

He scored four in one game for Wales Youth against England Colts but his most important try was against New Zealand Under-18 in Christchurch in 1990. It is the only time Wales have ever beaten an All Blacks XV in New Zealand. 'That was special,' Scott said.' New Zealand didn't like it very much.'

There was a time when Scott did not like training very much. At a schools training camp four years ago he was on the point of being sent home for laziness.

A wry smile. 'It's true that I didn't use to train as hard as I do now.' Last year, when he was out of action with foot and knee injuries, his weight went up to 19st. It is now down to 17st. Take a bow Nicola, who presented him with a daughter, Samantha, last summer.

'My wife prepares all my meals and makes sure I eat the right things. Pasta, rice, chicken, no fat. She also makes me go training when sometimes I don't feel like it.' In addition to the diet, Scott trains for two hours every evening, usually in the company of Phil Davies, the Llanelli lock.

Quinnell, who lives 300 yards from Stradey Park, was brought into the Llanelli system at the age of 18 and against Scotland he will be surrounded by a sea of familiar faces. Seven other Scarlets and an all-Llanelli back row, not forgetting that Gareth Jenkins left the club last season to become Wales's assistant coach.

'The more senior rugby you play the better you get,' Quinnell says.' I'm a much better player this year than last and with so many experienced players around me I'm picking up little things all the time. We know each other's game. I've still got a lot of learning to do but my goal is to be one of the best. There's no point in playing otherwise.'

His strengths are his handling and running, especially his drives from the scrum. 'I like crossing the gain line. It makes it a lot easier for the rest.' Line-out? 'All right.'

He won his first cap against Canada in Cardiff in November, playing blind-side flanker after the withdrawal of Stuart Davies. 'I've fallen asleep thinking of running on to the National Stadium.' Canada ruined the dream. 'I never wanted to lose wearing the red jersey, or green as it was that night. I was on such a high but Canada played a spoiling game and we couldn't get into a pattern.'

He played No 8, just as his father had done, for the Barbarians against the All Blacks last month. His ability to make ground from set pieces will have alerted Rob Wainwright, a team-mate then, an opponent today.

If Quinnell, who works for his father's company as a sales rep, is following in one set of footsteps, Craig and Gavin Quinnell appear to be tracing their elder brother's. Craig is an 18-year-old lock who has won a schools cap and at 6ft 6in and 18st is taller and heavier than Scott; the 10- year-old Gavin, who plays for Llanelli Under-11s, is 5ft 4in and 10st and is also heading for the clothes range marked high and mighty. 'Craig is quite useful,' Scott said. 'He's coming along. It would be nice to play in the same side.'

Today, though, the father's image is mirrored by the Llanelli No 8. Or, as Edmund Burke said of William Pitt the Younger, he is not a chip off the old block, he is the old block.

(Photograph omitted)

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