Sean Cronin: Long review on Wayne Barnes with Joe Schmidt after Cardiff clash will stand to us
For quite some time yesterday afternoon, Wayne Barnes was trending on Twitter after it was announced that he would be taking charge of Leinster’s clash with Toulon at the Stade Velodrome on Sunday.
The most recent memory of the English referee for fans of Leinster and Ireland was the 23-16 defeat to Wales that ended any chance of a Grand Slam.
Barnes made a number of questionable decisions as Ireland tried desperately to salvage something from the game in the final quarter and some fans are still unhappy with his performance.
The ill feeling doesn’t extend to the Leinster camp and Leinster hooker Sean Cronin believes that the added homework they have done on the RFU official will stand to his side.
“I know a lot of people were giving out saying that Wayne Barnes wasn't a good fit for us but a lot of us that were involved in the Ireland-Wales game, we had identified some of the things he was hot on and we ended up getting pinged for it,” he said today.
“We'd a long review in terms of being in camp with Joe and a lot of us have learned lessons from that.
“A lot of us have experience with him and a lot us know what he's looking for and we just need to deliver on that to keep him happy.”
Most of Leinster’s main internationals were rested for the disappointing defeat to the Dragons at Rodney Parade and they took in Toulon’s victory over Bernard Jackman’s Grenoble, as well as taking the chance to watch last year’s quarter-final defeat.
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“A few of us weren’t involved at the weekend, so we looked at Toulon and had a look at the game from last year and we coughed up a few scores from poor execution on our behalf, in terms of our set-piece and our detail at the breakdown,” he added.
“Last season they totally dominated us. (Mathieu) Bastareaud and (Steffon) Armitage absolutely killed us, we couldn’t get any ball going and they are a couple of keys areas to look at for Sunday.
“We know it’s going to take the best performance of our season so far, if not the last few seasons to get a result down there but we know we have it in us.
“We’re trying to get a few things implemented in training this week and hopefully that will bring us some dividends.”
Leinster are in the strange position of being rank outsiders for a game of this magnitude but Cronin doesn’t think it will make any difference this weekend in the south of France.
“I don't think anyone is giving us a chance, I think the bookies have us as a 11 or 12 point (outsiders), maybe the backs to the wall mentality will suit us,” he said
“It is unusual, especially here at Leinster, to be so much of an underdog. It's not the usual scenario. Looking back at the Bath game, people were giving us a 50-50 chance , so we've kind of moved into that territory quite suddenly but it doesn't affect the mindset.”
Toulon’s formidable pack is certainly getting on in years but Leinster will be more concerned about getting their own game going before they think about moving the Toulon pack around the field.
“They might have a few years on the clock but they are still playing pretty well.
“We're looking to play the game we have tried to get going all season, get our big strike runners going, Sean O'Brien, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, to get us into the game and get us over the gainline.
“We need to win the ball at the breakdown and the try and shift the ball.
“They are an awesome side and they deserve respect but we also have some pedigree in the competition. I'm sure they will give us some respect we deserve.”
On the Leinster injury front, Kane Douglas (back) and Shane Jennings (return to play protocols) are unlikely to be available for Leinster but Ian Madigan, Richardt Strauss and Fergus McFadden are all fit and in contention.