Tony Ward: I don't get why Sean Cronin isn't in the Ireland squad - he should be on the bench at the very least
Tony Ward says that Sean Cronin is Ireland's 'best ball-carrying hooker by a proverbial mile' and is mystified as to why Joe Schmidt decided to leave him out of his Ireland squad for the autumn tests.
The Leinster hooker hasn't played for Ireland since the win over Australia in the November series finale last year, and missed the 2017 Six Nations following a hamstring injury.
However, despite returning to fitness, Schmidt opted against including the 31-year-old in his squad this autumn, opting instead for Ulster duo Rory Best and Rob Herring along with Cronin's Leinster team-mate James Tracy.
Cronin had carved out a role in green as a big ball-carrying impact sub over the last few years, and Tony Ward is one of many observers who were left flummoxed when he was omitted by Schmidt.
"I don't get it," Ward told The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast.
"He is the best ball-carrying hooker by a proverbial mile. He is still an incredibly mobile and effective ball-carrier. In terms of ball-carrying, Cronin for me is way ahead of all the other hookers, Rory Best included. The one issue with them all is in terms of throwing in. We really don't have an outstanding thrower at the moment and the best is probably Niall Scannell, who is injured. For me, Cronin should, at the very least, be in the 23."
Irish Independent rugby correspondent Ruaidhri O'Connor also joined host Will Slattery on the podcast, and shared the explanation Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby gave for not selecting Cronin.
"We asked Simon Easterby and he said it was down to form," O'Connor said.
"He is probably a victim of that he has been swapping positions with Sean Cronin. It wasn't a very convincing argument.
"I was surprised. Sean Cronin off the bench with 20 minutes to go is unlike almost any hooker out there."
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