Friday 15 December 2017

Leinster's Sean Cronin out to storm Castres

Hooker confident Blues have class and grit to thrive on French soil

Leinster hooker Sean Cronin is in the frame for the Six Nations and continues to work hard on his game
Leinster hooker Sean Cronin is in the frame for the Six Nations and continues to work hard on his game
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

SEAN CRONIN believes that Leinster can put their Northampton Saints disappointment behind them and beat Castres in their own back yard to keep their Heineken Cup campaign on track.

The three-time Heineken Cup winners have not won a pool game in France since 2009, but the Ireland hooker reckons that the experience in the away dressing-room can see them through at the Stade Pierre Antoine.

As expected, coach Matt O'Connor has opted to select Jimmy Gopperth at fly-half for the crucial clash, while Kevin McLaughlin returns at blindside in place of Rhys Ruddock and Mike Ross replaces Martin Moore at tighthead prop.

STRONG

Castres are without their key duo of Rory Kockott and Antonie Claassen, but have otherwise named a strong side for a game they need to win to have any chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

They have an impressive home record, but Cronin reckons that Pool 1 leaders Leinster have the tools to get the result and stay on course for the last eight despite losing to the Saints at home in Round 4.

"I think we have the capabilities, we have the personnel both physically and mentally," he said in an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent.

"Some of the best players ever to play for Ireland and Leinster are still in the squad and the experience that they can bring us... Drico (Brian O'Driscoll), D'Arce (Gordon D'Arcy), Leo Cullen and these guys.

"So, I think we're going to have our heads right. We're in a good place. We know that we messed up against Northampton at home and I think that we have the belief to go over there and get the result.

"We know that it is in our hands -- two wins and we're in the quarter-finals. Matt has been driving that home, so it's going to take a huge effort."

"Two wins and we're through. If we don't win on Sunday then we'll be under serious pressure and it will come down to the last game, but I think we have the capabilities to win in France."

Meanwhile, there was good news for Joe Schmidt as Munster named Conor Murray to start their crucial Pool 6 clash with Gloucester, while Simon Zebo could play for the first time since October after being named on the bench.

Coach Rob Penney has stuck with out-half Ian Keatley to start at Kingsholm despite his poor kicking display last week at Ravenhill and the impressive claims of JJ Hanrahan, while Dave Foley will make his Heineken Cup debut alongside Paul O'Connell in the second-row.

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