Connacht the key to Cronin’s call

Guinness PRO12 Editor

9 Jun 2010


Sean Cronin believes playing regular Magners League rugby is the key factor behind his rise to international prominence.

Connacht hooker Cronin starts for Ireland against the All Blacks on Saturday, two years after moving to Galway from perennial title challengers Munster.

Cronin’s decision to up sticks and depart of one world rugby’s most successful sides raised some eyebrows at the time but the 24-year-old now appears fully justified in his thinking.

The six foot, 16-and-a-half stone forward had only made two senior appearances as a replacement for Munster having come up through the ranks and, with two Ireland hookers in situ, game time was always going to be limited at Thomond and Musgrave Park.

But that hasn’t been the case at The Sportsground where Cronin has established himself as a firm favourite with coaches Michael Bradley and Eric Elwood and the Connacht faithful.

Cronin featured in 15 of his side’s 18 Magners League fixtures last season having made 17 appearances in Celtic competition in his first year with the province.

"I moved up to Connacht to try and get some game time because I was behind the likes of Jerry Flannery and Frankie Sheehan when I was at Munster, so I wasn't getting much game time or exposure," said Cronin, who will win his third international cap this weekend after making his debut against Fiji last November.

"I just sat down and weighed up my options and said I'd take the chance and move up.

"It's worked out very well. I've got a lot of game time up there and pushed my way in here with Ireland. It's been a good move for me."

Having been a central part of Connacht’s improvement last season, Cronin now has the opportunity to test himself in one of the toughest environments of all.

Cronin’s time in Galway has left him well accustomed to underdog status and that’s certainly the position Ireland will find themselves in on Saturday in New Plymouth.

Declan Kidney’s men arrived in New Zealand minus a host of Magners League stars including Paul O’Connell and Stephen Ferris as they look to end 105 years of hurt against the All Blacks.

And while the Kiwis are missing a few big names of their own, Cronin knows that he is about to face the biggest challenge of his young rugby life.

"You're up against the best players in the world so you know it is going to be a massive test," added Cronin, who is keen to get the basics right and showcase his ball-playing ability at the Yarrow Stadium.

"It is such a conveyor belt of fine rugby players, it (New Zealand missing players) is not going to make much difference.

"We're expecting a battle in every facet of the game. It's going to be difficult expecting to impose our game but we're preparing as best we can and we're really looking forward to Saturday.

"I’m getting my head right and everything in place for Saturday to put my best foot forward.

"Your bread and butter have to be flawless at Test level but I enjoy getting my hands on the ball and trying to make an impact the best I can. If I'm able to combine both on Saturday it will be a great day."