Ex-Ireland prop Wallace: It's a travesty if Cronin was dropped for scrum penalty
The curious case of Seán Cronin and his quest to force himself into Joe Schmidt's plans as Ireland's starting hooker continued in Melbourne last week when he was left out of the match-day squad.
With Rory Best missing the tour to Australia, this was seen as an ideal opportunity for Cronin to stake his claim, yet it hasn't exactly worked out like that.
The Irish Independent understands that the Leinster hooker was left in the dark over the coaches' decision last week as no one explained the reasoning behind his omission to him.
In his absence, Niall Scannell excelled in the second Test win, while Rob Herring has also impressed on tour.
It is widely believed that the Limerick native paid the price for a crucial scrum penalty that Australia won in the first Test, but former Ireland and Lions tighthead Paul Wallace cannot fathom anyone blaming Cronin for that.
"I think it would be a travesty if that was a case because you'd blame your tighthead more than a hooker, your second-row," said Wallace, who will compete in Davy's National Yacht Club Regatta on Saturday.
"There are so many parts to a scrum, you can never blame someone, especially someone who has been around a long time and has never been a perceived weakness. Maybe if his lineout had fallen apart, where he has had trouble before.
"I hope he does play the last Test because on that hard ground in Australia I thought he was going be immense because he's one of the best running hookers in the world.
"Looking ahead to the World Cup, he (Joe Schmidt) wanted to see Herring and Scannell, and Scannell did very well considering the amount of game-time he had.
"They're very good players but for me Cronin has a bit of x-factor, especially as a bench player if you need tries and are chasing."
Cronin may be a lighter hooker, but he was part of a dominant Leinster scrum that won the double. From that end, Wallace doesn't buy into the notion that the 32-year-old is a weak scrummager.
"I think Seán has really matured over the last season or two," he added. "Are they going to play a wide running game? Does Seán fit into that or does he want big, physical guys who can dominate which is less risky or someone who can do the spectacular out wide with ball in hand.
"I think he should have all options. I would be very surprised if he does not get a run at all. I couldn't see the reasoning why he'd be brought down.
"I wouldn't have blamed him for that scrum. I would say if he wasn't clearing enough rucks or something like that.
"The Leinster scrum has been pretty solid. I haven't heard anyone bemoan... his size is one thing but all my years of scrummaging, there is probably only (Mario) Ledesma and (Garin) Jenkins who made any real material difference in the scrum.
"I never heard that from his Connacht days, his Munster days and he's around a long time."