Monday 18 February 2019

Time has surely come for Cronin

CHANCE: Seán Cronin. Pic: Sportsfile
CHANCE: Seán Cronin. Pic: Sportsfile

If not now, then when?

That must be the cry of Seán Cronin should the Leinster hooker fail to convince Ireland coach Joe Schmidt of his right of reply to the doubts surrounding his ability to start at international level.

That can be the only conclusion drawn from just nine starts out of 61 Ireland caps through nine seasons in green, his debut coming against Fiji in November 2009.

Since Schmidt rose to the highest post in the land in 2013, the Limerick man has started three times from his 34 appearances.

Worse again, Cronin has never worn the number two shirt in a Six Nations match.

It was just eight months ago when the 32-year-old's Ireland career appeared to be slipping out of reach.

He was not included in the national squad for the November series, with captain Rory Best, fellow Leinster hooker James Tracy and Ulster's Rob Herring all posted ahead of him.

In fact, Munster's Niall Scannell would have been in the frame were it not for injury.

A reasonable argument could be made that Cronin had dropped from second to fifth choice on Schmidt's depth chart.

Since then, there has been a notable surge in form as the middle man in Leinster's all-conquering front row.

The first small victory was to overtake Tracy in the Leinster pecking order.

From then on, he has been rewarded for going back to basics, knuckling down to his core duties of throwing and scrummaging.

It is the latter of these which has often been seen as his Achilles heel.

An Ireland bulletin yesterday confirmed how Scannell has stepped in for Best, whose hamstring forced him to be pulled from the tour to Australia.

It would seem the test slot is between Cronin and Herring, with Cronin's past perception working against him, perhaps until this moment.

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