All about the team as prop gets ready to go the extra mile
Cork prop happy to swap two-minute trip for daily trek to UL - because unified training benefits Reds
Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30
Like the rest of his Munster colleagues, 2015-16 has been tough for James Cronin. But next season provides the opportunity for a fresh new beginning as the province opens a new training centre and welcomes in a director of rugby for the first time.
It could be the ideal scenario for Munster to build back to their once great European status, but first they need to secure Champions Cup rugby for next term by beating Scarlets in Thomond Park tomorrow.
They might not need to win but if they were to get to get the better of Edinburgh and Scarlets in the last two games of the Pro12 season it would put a gloss on a difficult campaign.
Cronin (25) has played 22 times for his province this season as he continues to battle it out with Dave Kilcoyne for the starting loosehead role.
They will have to start from scratch again next season, as they look to impress Johan 'Rassie' Erasmus. Cronin says he is looking forward to working with the former Springbok and is intrigued by the reputation of his future boss.
"I don't know much about him, I can't really comment about it until we get working underneath him.
"But by all accounts he is a very good coach. His CV speaks for itself," he says.
Cronin will have to change it up on the pitch, but there will be a few big alterations off it too. The move to UL will be big undertaking for many of the Munster side, and Cronin is one of the Cork-based players affected.
The three-time capped Ireland international hails from Ballincollig just outside Cork city, and he is staying put next season as he attempts to make the trek to Limerick to train with the remainder of the squad.
"Munster are going to move up there but I am going to commute. We will see how it goes anyway for the first year," he says.
"We are based in CIT at the moment. I am just two minutes out the road from there. The way it's working now, there might be ten of us staying in Cork, and we're only about an hour from Limerick.
"It will be different. This is all we've known. Supposedly we will be better for it, and hopefully we will be."
The Dolphin clubman, who made his debut for Munster in October 2013, has made 63 appearances for the province in three seasons with the seniors. But this has been the most difficult one yet, and it's crucial that Munster bounce back next season.
"We haven't been going well collectively, as well as we wanted. It's all about the collective, personally we could have all done a bit better," he says.
"It was an average season, these things happen. But Munster didn't always win. There was a time as well where they struggled initially in Europe.
"We struggled too and there are no two ways about it. We have all learned from the hard losses that a kick here or there or a crucial decision can change a game.
"We have learned hard lessons with that this year. We will get this season over, hopefully qualify for the Champions Cup and get back up to the one centre and crack on from there."
And with so much competition at Munster, especially in his position, Cronin needs to remain at the top of his game if he wants to get game-time from week to week.
His battle for the No 1 jersey with good friend Kilcoyne continues through each game. And like any professional at a top club, they have had to make peace with the fact that neither will start every game.
"At the end of the day, it's not about me starting, it's about the team winning. So whatever the coach decides, that's what's best," says Cronin.
"It is improving us but that's like anything, any position. If there are two fellas going for it you are both going to strive to start.
"We have probably been doing it for three or four years.
"If one fella doesn't start it's complete team focus, because the other fella knows he is going to be coming off the bench with 20 or 30 to go. And he has got to finish the job."
And this weekend will be no different, as Munster will come up against one of the most fearsome front-rows in the Pro12. Samson Lee is a massive loss to the Scarlets scrum but they still have plenty of experience to cause Munster problems.
It will be a huge test for the Munster side as a whole, and with Scarlets chasing a play-off position, they have their own motivations coming into this weekend.
But Cronin and Munster crave Champions Cup rugby - the competition wouldn't be the same without the Reds.
"It's massive for both sides because they are fighting for top four, and we are fighting for a Champions Cup spot. There will be nothing left off the field," he says.
"It will probably be hammer and tongs for 80 minutes and we will be happy to slug it out with them. Just the 80 minutes on Saturday, that's all we will be worrying about.
"They are both crucial games now, the Ospreys are behind us now trying to gun us down. We are trying to get into the Champions Cup It's just so competitive, in the last game of the season it's all to play for from one to seven.
"But it's great to have it in Thomond Park, we need to look after our own house and that's all that matters."