Cronin: We weren't on the same page going to Bath
Hooker admits Leinster pack was 'dominated'
Published 25/11/2015 | 02:30
A total of 291 Ireland caps between seven of Leinster's eight starting forwards against Bath last Saturday would amount to a considerable bulk of experience in anyone's book.
All seven featured at the World Cup and have been back in the club environment for a number of weeks now, so it was therefore somewhat alarming to hear Sean Cronin say that the Leinster pack 'weren't on the same page' going into what was a crucial Champions Cup clash.
Given that he was the starting hooker, Cronin was at the fulcrum of a set-piece that faltered time and time again but what was most concerning was his side's inability to combat what Bath threw at them.
"It was more disheartening than surprising," Cronin admitted.
"We've got to cop it on the chin as a front-row, first and foremost. We probably got a couple of things wrong in terms of our approach to how we dealt with the Bath scrum, and then collectively as an eight, we probably weren't working together.
"We probably weren't on the same page in terms of the way we were going to address the scrum going into the game.
"Like I said, we've got to cop a bit of flak because we probably didn't problem-solve enough on the pitch as the game went on.
"It's all about the pictures that you paint to the referees at times as well. They got on top there and I think (Jerome) Garces then was rewarding what he saw as the dominant scrum."
Sixteen of Bath's 19 points came as a result of Leinster's infringements at the scrum which is a damning statistic in itself.
What should have been their day off on Sunday was instead spent in meetings, going through why exactly Leinster were so abject in both the scrum and lineout.
"We had a good sit-down and a chat about what we want to do going forward and address a couple of the problems that we thought we had," the Limerick native explained.
"The major things are being able to problem-solve and adapt during matches. Whether it's with the referee or what they're doing. It was disappointing overall. There's no sugar-coating it. We got dominated at the scrum and it's something that we have to address.
"There's no better opportunity in going up against a good pack and a well-led scrum on Friday in a derby match. That will be a big test for us."
Ulster themselves will arrive in Dublin on the back of a damaging defeat to English opposition as they were completely outplayed by Saracens.
Cronin's battle with Rory Best will be one of the many fascinating sub-plots. The Ulster hooker will be one of the favourites to take over the Irish captaincy which will make it even tougher for Cronin to break into the starting XV but he knows that going up against his direct rival can help bring the best out in him.
"Yeah, I think that's probably more of the mind frame that I'm in going up against a quality, quality player," he said.
"I've been playing with Rory in the Ireland set-up now for the last few years and I know what he can bring, he's a fabulous player.
"I think I have my own attributes as well that I hope I can bring to the game on Friday and influence it.
"I suppose I like to get into the game and get some ball-carrying going and get into the game that way.
"I think I can also bring a bit of bite around the tackle area, it's something I have been working on since I came back from the World Cup.
"Rory obviously has his strengths in and around the scrum and his fabulous work at the breakdown for Ulster, himself and Chris Henry, so like I said we have different attributes but I suppose that's what makes it interesting."
Leinster will be desperate to end their two-game losing streak but Cronin accepts that they have their work cut out given their poor form and that Ulster also need a win to maintain their own play-off hopes.
"Look, it's a challenging time, there's no point in lying about it. It's going to take time for lads with 20-something players coming back into the squad," Cronin insisted.
"I know it's professional sport and people want results straight away and there's no time for integration, but it's going to come.
"We know that we're pushing forward, but it's coming in small steps. We've got to make sure to keep the confidence going because we know the quality is there."
Few would doubt that the quality is within Leinster but if they are to get back on track, it would be advisable at least start from the same page.