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Monday 26 June 2017

Cronin could be a Lions bolter

Irish hooker compared to All Black Coles for his unique speed and X-Factor impact

Sean Cronin at Leinster squad training in Belfield
Sean Cronin at Leinster squad training in Belfield

New Zealand have Dane Coles. The British and Irish Lions could have Sean Cronin.

There are probably only two other hookers in the world - Coles and Schalk Brits - that could have done what Cronin did to The Ospreys on Saturday.

Of course, neither of those is available to wear the red shirt this summer.

This notion was given further credence by Ronan O'Gara underwriting Cronin's credentials as the perfect man of impact for New Zealand.

"Is he on the selection committee? Hopefully, he is," joked Cronin.

"With the whole Lions thing, I would be chuffed if I was even in those conversations. It is good to have people like Rog plugging for you in the background."

The tag of the impact hooker has followed Cronin for most of his professional career.

It is something with which the Limerickman is at peace.

"Am I frustrated with being pigeon-holed as an impact sub?" he began.

"At times, it has got me into squads or kept me in squads. That is how a coach has chosen to use me.

"On balance, it has worked out as a positive for me," he commented.

"You can see the game is changing in the last couple of years.

"You need players coming off the bench and you need what Eddie Jones calls 'the finishers.'

"I suppose, looking at it, I can deliver at the front end of the game or the back end of the game. It doesn't really bother me," he stated.

Menace

Cronin was moving with menace this season until a serious hamstring injury at the beginning of January ruled him out of the Six Nations for a total of twelve weeks.

"It was the first big soft tissue injury I had in my career," he said.

"When they first told me it would be that time-frame, I was shocked because I hadn't had anything like that before."

The comeback came against Ulster A in an Inter-provincial fixture the day before The Champions Cup quarter-final.

"There were 55 people in Banbridge on a Friday and 55,000 at The Aviva on the Saturday.

"It was just the way it fell. I was just happy to get back playing and the leg held up well."

Cronin is all about getting back to where he was before the injury stymied his plans.

"I was at a decent level before Christmas and was going well.

"I'm just trying to work back to that now. That's the main focus."

Cronin's former club Connacht, where his career came alive, are next on the hit list.

"When I was there, there was something funny about when Leinster go down there.

"There is an edge, both with me playing with Connacht and me going down with Leinster.

"Everything goes out the window with the fact that they are trying to climb the table to get into those Champions Cup spots and we are trying to solidify a Top-2 position.

"It is a derby game there is always a nice bit of bite there. They seem to enjoy it, enjoy us when Leinster roll into town."

This is the third last round of the PRO12 League and the final shot at impressing Warren Gatland before The Lions party is revealed next Wednesday.

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