Tuesday 16 January 2018

'Form book goes out window in Munster clashes'

The Big Interview: Sean Cronin

Sean Cronin is tackled by Cardiff Blues’ Blaine Scully. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Sean Cronin is tackled by Cardiff Blues’ Blaine Scully. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Leinster’s Sean Cronin, left, and Noel Reid in training. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Stuart Lancaster. Photo: Sportsfile

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Let's start where we left off. It's April 2 and Leinster have just beaten Munster 16-13 in the Aviva Stadium to complete a memorable seasonal double over their fiercest of rivals.

In front of 43,108 supporters in the home of Irish Rugby, Limerick man Sean Cronin has just gone head to head with his home province.

"It was hugely satisfying to just get the win first and foremost and I suppose to do the double but at the same time I don't think you can read that much into the result and that goes for both games.

"They had the measure of us the season before that so there is nothing in them. Like in Thomond earlier last season, Zane Kirchner's intercept try puts more of a gloss on the game and the scoreline and in the Aviva in April only for Ben Te'o smashing into them on our try-line like a man possessed we could have been looking at a very different result.

"So for me these games take on a life of their own. They're a game within the season, stand-alone almost. The form book goes out the window. What has gone before or last season goes out the window. You deal with it on its merits."

Both of the games last year would support that theory.

In the December game in Thomond, Leinster were considered by many to be on a low after disappointing European results but they turned that on its head with a commanding performance.

The same in April. Again Leinster were coming in off the back of a disappointing loss away to Connacht yet managed to do enough on the day to squeeze past their southern rivals. And that game kicked off a run of wins that took them as far as the Guinness Pro12 final.

The script goes out the window.

"It definitely does. Even look at the make-up of both teams. New coaching structures. New centre partnerships for both teams. Different combinations being tried out by both teams.

"We can be happy with what we achieved last season but that's then. It has no bearing on Saturday's game and I know it will be the usual sort of game. Tight, physical, confrontational. But there is massive respect between both sides and it's one we are all looking forward to."


Is there even more at stake with big Champions Cup games around the corner?

"Possibly but to be honest there is enough at stake in the Guinness Pro12. We want to have as many points on the board as possible before we set our sights on Europe.

"There is also the small matter of the Autumn Internationals and in many cases on Saturday you are going against lads that might be competing for the same jersey. So I think there is plenty at stake without anything else adding fuel to the fire.

"That makes it even more exciting for the supporters. It's a savage stadium when the crowd get behind you and hopefully it will bring the best out of both teams."

The internationals that he mentions are front of mind having been in his company only a few days ago for an Irish get-together.

"It was good. Those get-togethers are not about a huge level of training or anything like that but meetings and a few run-throughs then on the pitch of what we hope to maybe execute in the Autumn games. It's good to get that time together to refresh what would have been done in the past and keep things front of mind.

"It will be odd going against some of those lads now on Saturday but that's what's special about the interpros and the reason we all look forward to them."

With a big game tomorrow you venture that it can't be easy flicking from green to blue in the space of a day or so but the 52-times-capped Irish hooker isn't too put out.

"It's maybe more of an issue for younger lads starting out and making that move from one to the next. That doesn't make it any easier but you do get into the rhythm of it.

"The most important thing is to immerse yourself in the camp you are in. So when in Carton House it's all about Ireland but then come Tuesday you are keen to make sure that you nail your detail when out on the pitch with Leinster.

"Having missed the Monday session in Leinster, I suppose the pressure was on to execute at that Tuesday training session really well."

That scenario, the switch from one to another and the pressure to perform come Saturday was never more sharply in focus than last season after the World Cup. With a total of 20 players involved in England that transition was not easy.

"No, that was not easy. But I don't want to look for excuses either. We definitely did not hit the ground running after the World Cup and our Champions Cup form in particular suffered. But again I think we have learned from that and I think you can see this season when we have had everyone available for the pre-season that we are a good team and I suppose we have started off positively this season."

Indeed so have Munster with both teams on four wins from five and Munster just ahead of Leinster in the Guinness Pro12 table in second place.

"Munster have looked good. Especially last weekend against Zebre. They had their bonus point wrapped up by half-time and added a further three tries in the second half.


"Added to that you had the likes of Zebo, Stander and Murray all scoring and Peter O'Mahony making his first appearance in a year so they will take huge heart from that performance and indeed their performances to date."

It will be a first Irish derby for new Senior Coach Stuart Lancaster and Cronin has enjoyed his first month under the former England coach.

"He's had a great impact. I think the best compliment that I could give is actually the gel between him, Leo (Cullen), John (Fogarty) and Girvan (Dempsey). It has been really smooth and there is a nice group of coaches there working very hard to make us better players and put us in the best place possible to perform.

"For this week the training has been excellent and I think we are in a good place come the weekend. It's now up to us to deliver the game plan that Leo and the lads have set out for us."

Irish Independent

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