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Cronin 'flattered and chuffed' by Lions talk but his only selection concern is at Leinster

The hooker is just back from three months on the sideline and says his primary focus is on getting into Leo Cullen’s side.

Cronin showed his pace and power in Wales last weekend.
Cronin showed his pace and power in Wales last weekend.
Image: CameraSport/Simon King/INPHO

SEAN CRONIN ADMITS he would be ‘flattered and chuffed’ if he was even considered for inclusion in Warren Gatland’s Lions squad to be announced next week, but the Leinster hooker is a realist and knows he is very much an outside bet.

Cronin is only just back after a 12-week layoff with a hamstring tear and although he marked his return with an explosive performance against Ospreys last weekend, the untimely injury setback has left him behind the likes of Jamie George, Ken Owens, Rory Best and Dylan Hartley in the pecking order.

The 30-year-old’s name has long been mentioned in regards to this summer’s tour of New Zealand and his ability to make an impact off the bench and a powerful running game has led to suggestions he might make the cut as a ‘finisher.’

All of his qualities were on show at the Liberty Stadium last Saturday, as the durability of that hamstring was tested with a burst through the Ospreys defence and a finish a winger would be proud of for Leinster’s first try. Pace, power and quick feet.

It led to Ronan O’Gara to tweet ‘that’s why he will be the impact sub in each test v NZ’ but Cronin is fully aware that getting the call next Wednesday is unlikely at this stage.

“It was good just to be back on the pitch after being out for three months, it’s a long time and a lot of rugby so I was just glad to be back,” he said.

Sean Cronin Cronin speaking at Leinster's UCD HQ earlier this week. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“I’ve missed so much rugby my focus is getting into the Leinster squad at the moment it’s so tough. I’d be flattered and chuffed if they [Gatland] were even thinking of me or had me in their conversations.

“You got quality hookers down there in my position but I’m just back so I’d be flattered and chuffed to bits if I was just mentioned in those conversations that they’re having.

“I’m just looking to keep the head down and work here. I know it’s cliché but you’ve got three or four guys vying for two spots in the matchday squads. With a huge game coming up that’s just the focus for me.”

Cronin added: “The Lions is the pinnacle but we’ve got a great two-Test tour in Japan and America so the opportunity is there for guys that don’t make the Lions to go on that and be involved with getting an opportunity there.

“That’s a big carrot for every guy going out on the pitch at the weekend, I’m no different. I don’t want to be thinking about stuff like that, it is tough enough to get into the squad here at the moment.”

While all the talk was on the Lions, Cronin’s immediate focus is on working his way back to full fitness and putting his hand up for selection ahead of Leinster’s trip to Galway this weekend.

Sean Cronin The hooker is pushing for another start against Connacht on Saturday. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The hooker missed the entire Six Nations campaign as well as the eastern province’s Champions Cup quarter-final win over Wasps, but used the time off to build up his core and glute strength and heads into the final weeks of the season feeling sharp and fresh.

“I’ve never had a soft tissue injury so it was a bit doom and gloom for the first few weeks,” he says. “But once you start running again there’s light at the end of the tunnel and if you pick the positives it gives you the chance to freshen your body up and work on some other niggly issues that I had going on.

“I was really looking forward to getting back and that’s the way I looked at it; I had the chance when the other guys were getting bashed around for the 12 weeks I was injured, I was rehabbing and getting myself right to feel fresh and good.

“Now I just want to hit the ground running and getting back into the Leinster squad is the focus. If you’re in with a shout here, you’re going to be in with a shout in other things [Lions and Ireland] as well.”

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Ryan Bailey

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