Tuesday 20 March 2018

'It's a different All Blacks team coming to Dublin' - Sean Cronin's words of warning

Sean Cronin in action against Canada
Sean Cronin in action against Canada
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Sean Cronin has warned that a different New Zealand animal will turn up at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday determined to right the wrongs of their historic defeat in Chicago two weeks ago.

The All Blacks arrived in Dublin yesterday and have already ramped up their preparations for the rematch with influential second-row pairing Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock in a race to prove their fitness.

While the Ireland players enjoyed the famous win at Solider Field, it was straight back down to business last week and after the front line players sat out Saturday’s routine win over Canada, the intensity levels are set to increase in training from today onwards.

Cronin started against the Canadians but finds himself in the unfortunate position of having skipper Rory Best ahead of them in the pecking order.

Nevertheless, the hooker is one of Ireland’s most important impact players and he admitted that the last-gasp defeat to the All Blacks in 2013 provided the entire squad with plenty of valuable lessons.

“You can even see looking back through games that they have played, at the 50-60 minute mark is where they really put the pressure on teams and get points on the board,” the Limerick native said this afternoon.

“It is a big area, we learnt a lot of lessons from 2013, playing the All Blacks in the Aviva when we lost narrowly. That was a big area where the bench needed to offer a bit more that day.

“It’s been a big focus for the last few years, whenever you come on you fit in first and you make your impact through contributing to the team.

“That is an area I found myself in games, you come on and you try and fit in first and have a positive impact, try and help to close out the game. Hopefully that will be the same at the weekend.”

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, right, with New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen

Cronin believes that Steve Hansen will ring the changes this weekend as the All Blacks look to bounce back.

New Zealand were comfortable 68-10 winners over Italy on Saturday and several players like Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown and Malakai Fekitoa impressed enough to suggest that they will be pushing for a starting place at the Aviva Stadium.

“They're going to have a lot of changes,” Cronin suggested.

“They've got world-class players the calibre of Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock to come back into the row, possibly moving Jerome Kaino back to the back-row where he's been fantastic for years.

“It's a different team coming to the Aviva so that's an area the coaches will have to look at for the selection they make too. It's got to be a different mentality, depending on their selection.

“We weren't happy with our maul defence against Canada, our attack structure, there's areas there and there's areas of our defence in Chicago too.

“I'm sure Joe (Schmidt) has been in the think-tank with the rest of the coaches devising something for us, and there's no better man than Joe to put together a game-plan to go and attack them this week.

“We always have confidence that we can go out and match any team on the day, as long as we put in the performance and put together the different aspects of a team the calibre of New Zealand.

“There's confidence there, we know we have world class players. As long as we get the attitude right, the physicality and the mentality, we know we can match anyone, but it's going to have to go up there, it's going to have  to go up a few points to beat them at the weekend.”

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