Sunday 25 February 2018

Greg Feek aiming to blood new props James Cronin and Rodney Ah You in Argentina

Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek
Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek

Ruaidhri O’Connor in Buenos Aires

IRELAND scrum coach Greg Feek wants to use the summer tour to Argentina as a testing ground for uncapped props James Cronin and Rodney Ah You.

The New Zealander has moved into the national set-up after a successful stint at Leinster and is charged, among other things, with developing the strength in depth in Ireland’s front-row ranks.

Cronin has enjoyed a fine first senior season with Munster, particularly in the scrum while naturalised former Junior All Black Ah You has been a stalwart for Connacht in recent seasons.

Having been called up as a replacement for the injured Martin Moore, the Kiwi is certain to see some game time as one of only two tightheads in the scrum while Feek wants Cronin to be involved as well despite the presence of Jack McGrath and Dave Kilcoyne.

Argentina may be minus some big names, but they should be well able to scrummage and Feek wants to find out about his new men now to see if they will be useful in next season’s World Cup build-up.

“I’m a bit disappointed for Marty with his toe, it’s a shame for him but, having said that, it’s a good chance to look at Rodney and see what he brings,” Feek said.

“He’s a big man, 124kg, and in terms of the scrum if he can anchor that tighthead, that’s his role on tour for us.

“He’s got Mike Ross there at the other end of the spectrum with a lot of experience and he can learn off him and Rory (Best) as well, so it will be interesting to see how he goes and get to know him a little bit.

“Sometimes, tours are about that, we have James Cronin here as well who hasn’t played a Test yet.

“We’ve got to make sure these guys get on the field and mentally they can do what they do best, not worry about pressure or the crowd.”

Tighthead Mike Ross is expecting a stern examination from the Pumas.

“The same thing we always get from Argentina,” he said when asked what’s coming, “a hard physical performance. I know they are missing a lot of their big names but the team they have got has just come off a good run of six or seven victories in a row against teams like the Waratahs A and a good few professional sides.

“They won’t have the Lobbes or some of the big names you come to expect when you are playing Argentina in Argentina but it doesn’t make it an easy game by any means.

“It is more difficult because you don’t have the same amount of video you would have on other guys so there is a little element of wondering what these guys are going to be like.

“We have got some video of some of their games so we will be looking to go with that over the next couple of days and make sure we know what each player is going to bring.”

Moore has emerged as a real rival for Ross over the course of the season, but the Corkman is still disappointed his Leinster teammate couldn’t make the trip.

But he has been impressed by Ah You’s performances at provincial level and agrees with Feek that more depth is needed.

“It was really bad timing,” he said of Moore’s broken toe. “He has been going really well this season, putting me under a hell of a lot of pressure and he is probably in line to get his first start.

“But with him going out it gives the opportunity to Rodney Ah You, who has been going really well with Connacht this season. It is an extra bit of exposure and a bit of increase in depth in the prop ranks.”

Coach Joe Schmidt will put his squad through their paces at an open session at the Buenos Aires Hurling club this afternoon as the squad seek to shake off any travel-weariness.

The Pumas welcomed Tomas Cubelli back into their squad after his involvement for the Barbarians against England on Sunday, Castres prop Ramiro Herrera who played in last week's Top 14 final and Matias Diaz who featured for the Highlanders in Super Rugby last weekend into their squad as they continued their preparations for Saturday's first Test in the northern city of Resistencia.

The trio may have to wait until the second Test to be involved from the start, with head coach Daniel Hourcade set to select from the squad who has been together for the last number of weeks.

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