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'He's been the best hooker in the country for the last three years' - Luke Fitzgerald baffled by Sean Cronin absence

Sean Cronin of Ireland is tackled by Bernard Foley and Israel Folau of Australia
Sean Cronin of Ireland is tackled by Bernard Foley and Israel Folau of Australia

Sam Roberts

Luke Fitzgerald says Sean Cronin should have started for Ireland in their first test against Australia on Saturday.

Ireland slipped to an 18-9 defeat to Australia in the opening game of their summer tour last weekend, with Ulster's Rob Herring starting at hooker and Cronin coming off the bench in the second half.

Cronin has started just three games for Ireland since Joe Schmidt took over as coach five years ago and is instead usually deployed as an impact-sub, coming off the bench 32 times in that same period.

Former Ireland winger Fitzgerald was critical of the decision to start South Africa-born Herring over Cronin on Saturday..

"He [Herring] is the sub hooker for Ulster, why are we not starting Scannell, why are we not starting Cronin," Fitzgerald told The Left Wing, in association with Laya Healthcare.

"There's something he (Joe Schmidt) doesn't like about him. He's been the best hooker in the country for the last three years, over and above.

"He's picked Rory Best as his captain. Rory has loads of caps and Rory's a good guy and a good player, but he's just no comparison.

"From an attack perspective you'll get like two or three carries from Bestie in a game, max. They'll say in international rugby he might get one or two turnovers, but like [Cronin] might get one or two of them as well, and for what you get he's so much better.

"I just think he [Schmidt] doesn't like him, that would be my gut on it.

"For me this [tour to Australia] was a big opportunity to blood in Sean Cronin."

"It's nothing personal with Rob Herring it really isn't, I'd just like to see the two Irish guys. I like Scannell, I like Cronin, and I think they're actually better than Best, the two of them. I'd like to see one of them start this weekend," added Fitzgerald.

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