Consistency is key if we are to be respected on world stage - Cronin
Published 15/11/2016 | 02:30
Day 16 in the Big Brother Carton House and already the mood is different to when the Ireland squad first arrived at their team base on October 30.
The 111-year hoodoo against New Zealand has been lifted and while there is a palpable degree of cautious optimism, no one within the squad is getting ahead of themselves.
These are exciting times for Irish rugby but there remains a huge emphasis from within to back up the historic win in Chicago.
We love a good underdog, once-off kind of narrative in this country but this group of players are determined to change that when it comes to rugby.
Circumstances went against them at last year's World Cup but the fact is that Ireland were unable to back up the impressive win over France by beating Argentina.
It was a similar story in June, when after a thrilling first win over the Springboks on South African soil, Ireland failed to finish off the job and seal a series victory over a side who are rapidly in decline.
Having waited so long for the first, it is a huge ask to claim a second victory over the All Blacks in two weeks but Ireland could hardly arrive at this juncture in a better place.
With an almost full deck to choose from, the reality of Joe Schmidt's team selection on Thursday is that world class players will miss out.
"There's a good bite in training," Sean Cronin insists.
"There's lads wanting to get back into that Test 15 and the 23 as well, so there's going to be a lot of selection headaches.
"Guys need to perform in training and they need to be up to speed with everything. Joe and the rest of the staff have some headaches to deal with this week."
Schmidt will indeed have plenty of headaches but they are of the most welcome kind. For the players, it is all about finding that level of consistency that they have lacked at crucial times in the last 15 months.
"It's funny you mention that word (consistency), it's something that we've been trying to really plug the last couple of seasons," Cronin maintains.
"If you want to be respected on the world stage you've got to bring that consistency of performance. There's no point in having that result, a flash in the pan.
"It's great, it's fantastic to get that win off the back after the 111 years, but we're a team that is looking to be respected by other nations in terms of our consistency and our level of performance, so it's a big driving factor for us.
"You've got incredibly experienced players in there that are going top make sure lads aren't getting complacent and not really patting themselves on the back too much over that result in Chicago.
"I think that's been a huge thing, the core group of players that bring so much experience, that they keep driving the standards and the quality of performance that they want, with the coaching staff that they have as well. It seems to be gelling nicely."
There is a real feel-good vibe around the corridors of Ireland's Kildare base. The players have earned the right to be cautiously optimistic about the week ahead but yet at the same time, there is a stark realisation about what is coming down the tracks.
The players enjoyed their moment in Chicago and in their eyes, for now at least, that is all it was - a moment.
"It's all about looking forward. The result was fantastic, but yeah, it probably would," Cronin admits when asked if the gloss will be taken off the win two weeks ago if they fail to back it up on Saturday.
"If you look back at teams that have played New Zealand and put in a performance and managed to beat them, there's always been a serious backlash.
"You can see that in the Rugby Championship with Australia and South Africa. We're on high alert this weekend. They're going to be massively up for the game and might have a few key players coming back who are world class.
"That's going to add even more to the quality in their team, but yeah, it's all about this week. There's no looking back to Chicago."
In years to come, the players will be able to bask in their achievement at Solider Field but for now, it is all about writing the next chapter of their history.