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Cronin: Caution in air as capitals collide

JOB done and now move on.

That was the message from the Leinster camp earlier this week and an opinion shared by hooker Seán Cronin as he looked ahead to another big challenge in the shape of Cardiff Blues - the second of three Welsh opponents in three successive weekends.

Though the journey to Wales is one of the shortest international trips that the province face on the international circuit, it often reaps little reward for Leinster or other Irish sides.

Tradition is a significant barrier for those attempting to plunder the Welsh territories.

A measure of the physical scale of last weekend's victory was the fact that the man to the right of Cronin in the front row, Mike Ross, was the recipient of the man of the match award. That thought produces an appreciative but wry acknowledgement from the hooker.

"The scrum is a major aspect of the game and when you get a bit of go-forward momentum in that set-piece it gives the forwards a boost and the backs a platform.

"Towards the end of the game we managed to squeeze a few penalties out of them, which was nice, and our work-rate was high.

"Mike did really well and I was delighted for him because it's not that often you see props getting awards like that!

"The important thing was that we put in a performance and we got the win. But looking at our overall team effort, there are a few areas, such as ball protection, that we have to work on.

"Thankfully we got through the game relatively injury free. After the run of knocks we've had over the past few months that's important because you want a fit and competitive panel pushing one another in training and giving the coaches headaches.

"As a group, one big motivation for us during this period with a good few players due back from the physio table over the coming weeks is that we want to be in a strong position in both competitions when they return."

In the aftermath of last Saturday's win, Cronin was in a contented mood. On review, the Limerick man reflected with a pause, it was a good day's work, but with a lot more hard work to do.

"As a player, you're never 100 per cent happy with your performance," the 26-year-old explained ahead of tomorrow's clash.

"You can't be in a squad like this because if you look at the competition at hooker there's the likes of Straussy (Richardt Strauss) who has been in excellent recent form, Tom (Sexton) with the 'A' team and Aaron (Dundon) will be back shortly.

"So if you sit back and rest on your laurels then you'll fall over. Yes, there were positives out of last weekend's win (in Llanelli), and yes, we're pleased to be in a decent position in our pool, but all you have to do is look at the damage Clermont are causing (in our pool) and it softens your cough if you're ever losing the run of yourself!

"Don't get me wrong, we're delighted to be two (wins) from two. But with the PRO12 back this weekend, we need to change our mindsets and look to build because Cardiff are not coming over here to make up the numbers. Not by a long shot. And that is something that we've been drilling home this week."

Cronin is right to be cautious. Their opening two defeats in the league aside, the Blues have been excellent in the early part of this season, and the shift back to the bread and butter of league action this side of the November break can help galvanise their own campaign. A side in transition, the Ireland international points out, can often ask major questions.

"I know that Cardiff's results haven't been great in recent weeks, but they hung in there for long periods against Toulon on Sunday and with a bit of luck might have gotten more from the game. Toulon, you shouldn't forget, are one of the best teams in Europe who are tipped to win the Heineken Cup.

"From my experience, Cardiff are extremely difficult opponents and I've never known a Cardiff side who've come over to Ireland to make up the numbers.

"I would see them this year, given the large turnover in playing staff and new coaching team, to be a lot like where Llanelli were a couple of years back.


"They went back to basics and promoted a lot of local players from within and you can see them now reaping the benefit from that approach.

"Cardiff are a proud and talented side," he continued, "with a wealth of international experience in the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts and Sam Warburton. They're not just outstanding club players, they have performed consistently on the international stage over a long period of time.

"They're a typical Welsh side in that they like to move the ball wide with pace and they have great power across their team.

"All that we can do is prepare ourselves mentally and physically.

"It was a week of grind for us because we know the size of the task facing us this weekend."