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Cronin ready to roar


Leinster's Sean Cronin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Sean Cronin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Sean Cronin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

AH, the difficulties of being on the inside, hearing uninformed comment from the outside. That is the lot of hooker Seán Cronin.

The Leinster scrum came under severe pressure from Castres' giant front row in the Heineken Cup last Sunday, the ball lost or badly disrupted more than once.

More than most, Leinster must have a rock solid set-piece to trigger their quick-fire moves further out or else face the fear of failure.

"In terms of the scrum, we have our own agenda set out in the way we want to go about it. It mightn't necessarily mean that we are hooking the ball," said Cronin.

"I see a lot of people talking about it. Looking from the outside in, there are different tactics.

"With the hit being restricted, you essentially have two sets of eight. If one guy lifts his foot to hook, you have seven-on-eight when you are coming up against bigger, stronger packs.

"As regards Leinster, people might look at us as more athletic; power more than size and strength.

"We have to adapt. We have our own way of going about it.

"People looking from the outside in mightn't agree with it. But that's the way we're going about it."

The Leinster front row will have to be on point this evening as Martin Moore and Cian Healy join Cronin in what is a relatively new look at this level. Cronin has welcomed the chance to work in a decent run of games as Richardt Strauss was taken away from the game by heart surgery.

Now, Strauss has made a stunning return to the bench to add a different level of pressure to that applied by Aaron Dundon at a time when Cronin must lock necks with British & Irish Lions Test hooker Richard Hibbard.


The challenge don't come any bigger, literally: "He is a big, strong, powerful carrier. He has that to his game. But, he is quite athletic too, both in attack and defence," said Cronin.

"I know the challenge I face. Sometimes, the better a player you are up against, the more it focuses the mind. I am under no illusions how tough it is going to be.

"He looks to disrupt at the breakdown. He has an all-round outstanding game. He wasn't the Lions hooker for no reason.".

And Adam Jones was the automatic choice as the Lions tight-head for one good reason. He anchors a scrum better than anyone else in Europe.

It will be up to Healy and Cronin to turn the screw on Jones in a way he and Jack McGrath could not against a fierce Castres unit.

Coach Matt O'Connor sat Cronin down at the start of the season and let him know what he wanted from the Limerick man.

Presumably, this conversation went along the lines of bringing the traditional aspects of the game, like scrummaging, lineout throwing and other details in the tight, up to the same heights as his dynamism in the loose.

"I am not at perfection yet. Any player will always say he will strive to get better. The lineout throwing is one of the fundamentals and I will keep working on it," Cronin added.

"This is my mindset on that."

The mere fact The Ospreys can field six British & Irish Lions in their pack of forwards sends out a very live warning of the storm that is coming the way of Leinster.

The Welsh club has always been viewed as the nearly team of Europe, a moniker saved for Leinster until their breakthrough season of 2009.


For all their quality, the Ospreys have never qualified for the Heineken Cup final, never even made the semi-final and the quarter-finals just three times from 2008 to 2010.

At the same time, they do not feel inferior to Leinster. Never have done. They will come to Dublin knowing that they have no future in the Heineken this season. They also know how they can remove the home side from the quarter-final equation.

Leinster beware.