SEAN CRONIN WAS no stranger to Joe Schmidt’s axe when he found himself unceremoniously cast aside for the final two weeks of Ireland’s sorry Six Nations campaign.
Indeed, an earlier run-in with the Kiwi’s cut-line provides a simple, straightforward template Leinster fans will now hope to see him follow again: the trail he blazed for his province last season after being omitted from Schmidt’s November 2017 squad.
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Yet no prior experience can completely dull the sting of being ousted from starting – incredibly – for the first time in the Six Nations to being on the outside as a hefty 37-man squad gathered for the final acts of the tournament.
Cronin reacts during Ireland’s win over Italy in Rome. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
The woes of Ireland’s misfiring line-out in the win over Italy are over seven weeks passed under the bridge now, though, and with Leinster again chasing two titles Cronin has plenty of big games to keep his focus locked in on.
“I was obviously a small bit disappointed, but that’s part and parcel of being a professional rugby player. You’ve got to take the highs with the lows,” said the hooker as Leinster began their work week ahead of Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against Toulouse.
“What a fantastic opportunity coming back to Leinster, we’re in the business end of the season. All I can do is perform, hopefully get an opportunity to play in massive games and put my best foot forward to (get) re-selected. That’s all I can do.
Improving and bouncing back was a strong running theme for the eastern province today after their Pro14 home defeat to Glasgow Warriors. Cronin is still looking forward to getting a full debrief from Schmidt before, hopefully, returning to the Ireland fold ahead of the World Cup.
Cronin chats to the press at Leinster’s UCD base today. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
“I just had a quick phone call with him, I think he was going back to New Zealand post-Six Nations. I had come back to Leinster. I’m going to catch up with him before the season’s ended to do a quick review.
“I think I’m firmly still in the plans. Like I said, the ball’s in my court. I’ve to make sure I play well. There are other hookers around the country playing well too. That’s all I can do and we’ll see what happens from there.”
Cronin wore a wry smile and gave a succinct two-word answer – “the best” – when asked if his Six Nations experience was good motivation for the run-in facing Leinster and Toulouse marks another massive step to be taken towards their primary goal for the season.
The French giants, fellow four-time European champions, come into the week after a thrilling victory over Clermont in the Top14. But when Cronin uses phrases like ‘the business end’ it’s a reminder that form can mean precious little in knockout matches like this.
“This time last year we came in on the back of not great results too.
Cronin makes a break during the narrow quarter-final win over Ulster. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
“Form can count sometimes, sometimes it can’t. It’s a new week, a new build-up, it’s a special competition. The build-up’s slightly different, the buzz. Guys are willing to get started working today. There’s a huge amount of preparation goes into these games. Today’s the day we start.”
“These weeks are pretty special, to be involved in the business end of a massive European competition. There’s a pep in lads’ step when they come in.
“I think of our best performances this year was Toulouse at home, but I think we’re going to have to go up a few levels to make sure we’re in a final come the middle of May.”
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