Wednesday 26 July 2017

Cronin determined to make impact after Irish disappointment

Sean Cronin - determined to make an impact
Sean Cronin - determined to make an impact
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

It remains one of the mysteries of Ireland's World Cup campaign - why Sean Cronin was sitting alongside Paul O'Connell in a Millennium Stadium box rather than racing in to make an impact against Argentina has yet to be fully explained by anyone involved.

Over the course of the World Cup cycle, the Limerick-born Leinster hooker came off the Ireland bench 31 times and rarely failed to make his presence felt.

At Leinster, his form earned him a nomination for European player of the year last year, but Joe Schmidt kept him in reserve, ready to add impetus when Rory Best's tank had been emptied.

Yet, when it came to the biggest game of the New Zealander's time in charge, it was Richardt Strauss who came into the fray having started against Romania and somehow supplanted his Leinster team-mate in the interim.

The South African hooker is an excellent operator and is probably more suited to starting, but Cronin brings something off the bench and, when Ireland ran out of steam against the physically imposing Argentinians having fought back from behind in Cardiff, they could have done with his abrasive brand of power and pace.

Instead, he was left to despair in the most photographed corporate box in Cardiff, just as helpless as the injured and suspended men around him.

When asked to explain the decision, Schmidt's response was inconclusive and Cronin explained that he was told it was a "horses for courses" selection.

He himself is keen to look ahead to the provincial campaign to come, but concedes that he was left disappointed.

"It was a bit of a disappointment at the time both from a personal point of view but also going out at the quarters," he said. "You'd always be there sitting asking: 'What could I have added?' I'd have loved to have been involved at that time, but I'm happy to be back in this environment; happy to be back playing.

"I got 50-55 (minutes) against Treviso, I was supposed to be involved last weekend but I'd a slight calf problem, so I'm just looking forward to playing rugby again, to being involved here, to make an impact as best I can.

"It was a horses-for-courses type explanation I got. So, like I said, you can always think from a player's point of view, from a professional's point of view that you can add certain stuff and that's the point of view that I had.

"But I had to respect the coach's decision and trust that they were doing what they thought was best for the team. That's the way it went. I know that I've been delivering for the past number of seasons. So, I had to take the reasoning and try to do as best as I could for the squad throughout training and, if I was called upon, to come in and do the work off the pitch."

Difficult

Cronin's focus now is on Wasps and the immediate challenge of escaping a horrendously difficult pool that includes the English side Bath and three-in-a-row champions Toulon.

Despite that draw, tickets for the RDS are selling fast and 16,000 have already been shifted for the opener on Sunday.

Leo Cullen will be without Rob Kearney, who has a hamstring injury, while Luke Fitzgerald is a doubt with a shoulder injury. Otherwise, Leo Cullen has a strong panel to choose from and Cronin will again do battle with Strauss for a starting spot.

"I just want to get back playing and make an impact," he said. "I thought I played pretty well last year, hopefully that stood to me coming back; I don't think that I've fallen back."

Irish Independent

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