Tuesday 16 January 2018

Leinster star Sean Cronin: We will have to be at our best

Season rests on an unlikely win against the superstars of Toulon

Leinster's Sean Cronin during a press conference at Leinster Rugby Offices, UCD, Dublin
Leinster's Sean Cronin during a press conference at Leinster Rugby Offices, UCD, Dublin
Leinster's Sean Cronin during a press conference at Leinster Rugby Offices, UCD, Dublin

Hooker Seán Cronin was in no mood to downplay Leinster's task against Toulon in the Champions Cup semi-final.

"This is probably do or die for us," he said.

The inaccuracies and inconsistencies over the length of eight months mean Europe is not just everything to Leinster. It is the only thing.

The season is well and truly on the line for what should be a sunny and seriously well-cooked atmosphere in Marseille.

"There's no point beating around the bush. It is in the balance. Yeah, it is a massive game in terms of our season.

"It is totally out of our hands in terms of the play-offs in the League," he conceded.

A beleaguered, bedeviled Leinster will have to cause the shock of shocks against a champion club where complacency is simply outlawed.

"They're an awesome side, packed full of superstars, not just stars," he said.

"It is about trying to get the preparation and detail done early on in the week.

"Then, we can build the intensity for what it's going to take to win towards the back end of the week."

Leinster come into this one in unimpressive form, to say the least, nursing the impact of what the Dragons did to them on Sunday to virtually prise the PRO12 League right out of their hands.


It also brought into question the physical and/or mental state of Leinster going into the final quarter of their last two matches.

They haven't been finishing games out too well.

"Look, lads did come back in seriously deflated," revealed Cronin.

"It was a bad loss, especially having been 22-8 up and, again, there was a worrying trend there that we got our last score on 51 minutes and didn't score again.

"It was quite similar to the Bath game. Even though a lot of the players weren't involved, there's a trend there between both games.

"The good thing is this is such a huge game, lads will turn themselves around pretty quick to get up to what's needed to try and prepare and get everyone on the same page for a massive week."

Since the passing of 2009, Leinster have graduated to the elite band of European super-powers as three-time winners and regular knockout specialists.

This has changed again with the personnel. They have lost so much more than they have gained from the in-and-out categories of their roster.

At present, they are right there back in the pack, looking up at Toulon and Clermont-Auvergne.

"Yeah, well it is a certain case of backs to the wall for us," admitted Cronin.

"It's not a position we were in, in terms of the Bath game. It was a 50/50 flip of a coin there in terms of the way we were backed.

"I think we're 11 or 12 points with the bookies, something like that, so it's safe to say people aren't giving us much of a chance going down there.

"Maybe it could be a good thing that we're underdogs with a 'backs to the wall' type mentality.

"Like I said, we're trying to develop a game plan that we'll try to implement this week and backed up with the intensity and desire of, 'do we want to go down there and win?'.

"The whole week has been boiled up into three buzzwords at Leinster: belief, desire and intensity.

"I know they're easy words to say and actually bringing them into action is the tough part but we have to have a bit of belief in ourselves.


"Yeah, they are an awesome side and they deserve huge respect. They are two times champions going for a third.

"So we're under no illusions how tough it's going to be and the atmosphere and the intensity that they're going to bring is something you'd look forward to, but it's going to be tough."

It will take all of that, and more, to carry out a coup to send shockwaves through the continent.

There was even a tone of Jack Charlton's age-old attitude from another sport in a bygone era.

"We're going down there to play. We're going down there to give it a lash, so to speak. We're going down to try and play the way we wanted to play and the way we have, at times, this season.

"We're going to give it a right go, try and move the ball and put them under pressure."

The Limerick man believes there is no inferiority complex when it comes to countering Toulon's array of stars and threats.

"Well, look at the squad we have, look at the players there. We've gone to France and won before in massive games.

"You know they might have star quality, but so do we. So I think we'd back ourselves there.

"We've got some tremendous players. We've got some guys coming back who had game time against Bath.

"They are still trying to integrate back in terms of getting used to the systems and the way that Matt (O'Connor) wants us to play.

"It probably is going to take one of our best games in a few seasons to get a win."

There's no probably about it.



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