Saturday 24 March 2018

Cronin emphasises new broom as Leinster brush up on their skills

Sean Cronin. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Sean Cronin. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Mitigation can be the father of failure.

Last season, Leinster were too ready with the excuses for their wretched Champions Cup campaign.

By far the most risible, it seemed to us and the man or woman in the street - and even those safely tucked up indoors, was when Leinster claimed difficulty with "integrating" their vast horde of international stars.

A small violin played throughout Europe as Leinster, once masters of all they surveyed on the continent just a couple of years earlier, protested weakly, and weekly, as if their star names were some sort of burden.

In the lengthy list of excuses drummed into an always suspecting public, this deserved a crown all of its own; Leinster's demanding supporters will not be fooled again.

It was a culture at which Jonathan Sexton, alone, voiced his utter distaste.

Read more: Henderson banking on injury-free campaign

This season, the initial signs have been encouraging; there has been no World Cup for the province to pine over, the shadow squad have assumed much more responsibility and a style of rugby that may be more fit for purpose to challenge in Europe is, slowly but surely, being incubated.

The next three weeks will reveal much before Castres, a side always on the brink of European exit even before they enter, visit the RDS; rejuvenated Welsh duo Ospreys and Cardiff, followed by Munster.

Sean Cronin has said that the steady momentum of his side derives from the comfort zone of an uninterrupted pre-season for all; last year's excuses, though, still get an airing.

"It definitely is a massive difference, to get that block of pre-season, to be amongst the lads and working with the coaches," says the hooker. "Last year there was a huge focus on the World Cup and a lot of us were gone for the summer.

"It was a bit stop-startish when we came back and integration was tough. We came back in and there was one Pro12 game before Europe.

"It's a lot better this year, everyone is kind of on the same page a lot quicker. We've started well and hopefully there are still some areas that we can improve on over the next few weeks.

"And building into Europe we can see that improvement. We've had more time to bed in what we're trying to do and integrate lads a bit better this year.

"We've had the time to work together throughout the pre-season and I think that will stand to us."

Cronin, one of the continuing raft of centrally contracted stars being drip-fed to Leinster, also touches upon how Leinster are renewing their love affair with the basic skills of the game which, for some reason, they discarded so carelessly in recent times.

"There was a big focus in the skill aspect of every player in the squad during the pre-season," says Cronin, who demonstrated his own sweet touch in providing a subtle scoring pass to his captain, Isa Nacewa, against Edinburgh last Friday.

"You can do all the training, and all the 'circuits' and all the game specific training stuff with the S&C staff but there's nothing like playing a game, or getting out of a scrum and having to carry two balls or cleaning a couple of rucks.

"So it was a good run-out on Friday and hopefully if I'm involved again this weekend it will be a good opportunity to get the legs used to that match intensity.

"It's been evident in the few games we've had, that we're keeping the ball alive and looking to offload.

"It's hard to quantify whether it's on or not but we trust each other's skill levels to pull it off, and you could see at the weekend glimpses of it again, lads keeping the ball alive in contact; and not being stupid to push the pass. It seems to be working for us so far."

They have no excuses for it not to.

Irish Independent

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