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Cronin braced for Connacht collision

IT is one thing to be jilted by a club, quite another to walk away for greater reward.

Leinster's very own 'Connacht clan' of hooker Seán Cronin, prop Jamie Hagan and wing Fionn Carr have enjoyed contrasting fortunes since making the move east at the start of the season.

While Hagan and Carr have been unable to pierce Leinster's Heineken Cup first-team, Cronin has made a solid fist of meeting the challenge presented by the incumbent, Richardt Strauss.

Coach Joe Schmidt is all in favour of the rotation of players in and out of the squad for the PRO12 League.

The Heineken Cup is another matter entirely. He selects on merit only.



SUBSTANTIAL

Cronin started ahead of Strauss at home to Glasgow and received substantial time as a replacement against Montpellier, from the 56th minute, Bath away, from the 67th minute, and Bath at home, from the 53rd minute.

Needless to say, Cronin holds an insight into what Connacht are all about. He found out for himself very early in the season when Ireland played the province as part of their World Cup preparations.

"With Ireland, we had a warm-up game against them this summer. You just felt they were eyeing up to get you, singling you out. It was all good. There was a good bit of banter afterwards," he said.

For sure, coach Eric Elwood will drill down on the aspects of the game that Connacht must excel in. They must pressurise Cronin's throw on what is forecasted to be a difficult evening.

"From being in their changing room, I know how hungry they're going to be for this game at the weekend. When I was there for three seasons, we did particularly well against Leinster for some reason.

"I can definitely sense how much they will be up for this one, especially with the kind of form they have. They've been extremely unlucky in some of the games I have seen.

"Form goes out the window in these types of derby games. They will be targeting this game as a way of getting their season back on track.

"I was just talking to Joe about how up for the game they will be. It was general chit-chat.

"I was telling him there will be pressure to end the so-called losing streak they are on.

"This is a perfect opportunity for them to get their season back up and running by getting one over on the European champions.

"It is going to be extremely difficult. The Sportsground is a bit of a fortress. They've built it up this year. It will be a packed house."



EXPLODED

Cronin has been energised by the challenge of displacing Strauss. He exploded out of the blocks for Leinster's crucial try away to Montpellier, and exploited another five points last Monday to make it two tries in eight appearances. How's his form? "It is ticking along nicely. It would be nice to get more consistency. I am doing some things well. There is always stuff to be working on, especially with the coaching staff here."

The main difference for Cronin is that his Leinster scrum coach Greg Feek doubles as the Ireland equivalent. There is consistency there. "It has been great to have a full-time scrum coach (Feek) on board," said Cronin. "I have learnt a lot of things from him, trying to implement them into my game.

"He has also been tremendous for me in other areas of my game, helping out with my throwing and the breakdown work around the pitch."

The Limerick man is feeling the benefit of moving from Connacht to Leinster. He wants to make a statement back at the packed house he once called home.


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