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Ireland insist Cronin's omission down to 'building squad depth'

Forwards coach Simon Easterby insisted it was not a harsh call to leave the Leinster hooker out of this week’s squad.

THE SURPRISE, AND ruthless, omission of Sean Cronin from Ireland’s squad for Sunday’s Six Nations clash against France in Dublin was a decision based on building squad depth, rather than due to the Leinster hooker’s performance in Rome.

Cronin wasn’t in Belfast with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland last week and was left out of the 37-man squad for the round four game this weekend, with Ulster’s Rob Herring joining captain Rory Best and Munster’s Niall Scannell in the panel. 

John Ryan and Sean Cronin Cronin finds himself out in the cold after Rome. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The 32-year-old, who made his first Six Nations start against Italy last time out, has seemingly paid for a poor performance against Conor O’Shea’s side, but Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby today insisted Cronin’s axing was not down to form.

“I guess we’re looking continually to build some depth in positions,” Easterby said.

“Sean has been involved in the first three games, he has started in Italy, and in a specialist position like hooker, we’re just looking to continually build some depth and find out a bit more about players that we need to work with.”

Easterby didn’t agree with the assessment that it was a harsh call.

“Well, no, my reasoning is what I said — it’s to do with building some depth and we know a lot about Sean,” he continued. 

He has been in camp a long time, he has been in the squad a long time and has a lot of caps. It’s an opportunity to see a bit more of other players.

“That doesn’t exclude him from next week and it certainly doesn’t exclude him from us going forward. We need to keep building that depth and knowledge of those players in that position.”

After being rested in round three, it was always expected that Best would return to Schmidt’s starting XV for the visit of France to Dublin, with Munster’s Scannell now set for a place on the bench. Herring is also back in the mix having impressed during last summer’s tour of Australia.

It is a particularly cruel setback for Cronin after earning his starting opportunity against Italy, but again Easterby stressed it is purely to look at other options. 

“Listen there are lots of things players would be unhappy about in games. They are their worst critics,” he said of Cronin’s performance at the Stadio Olimpico, during which Ireland lost five of their lineouts. 

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Simon Easterby Easterby speaking at Carton House earlier. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I think Sean has gone pretty well. There would be a couple of lineouts that have gone astray but some of them is strategy. But when you look at what happens in a lineout there are so many combinations.

“If you get one of those things wrong, the lift, the jump, the throw, the movement, well it’s probably the hooker that gets a little bit of the pressure. I’d say we’ve been pretty happy with Sean and what he’s produced prior to coming in and while in camp.

“Again, I come back to having the opportunity to develop some depth in that position. I can hold my hand up in terms of strategy in that Italy game.

“The opposition read a couple and that sometimes is the case. Just looking at pure figures, what you guys see, you just pick out one thing and the lineout is more complex than that.”

Cian Healy sympathised with his Leinster team-mate.  

“It’s a tough one,” the prop said. “That’s the competition of the squad.

“It speaks volumes of the players that are here to know that Nugget can be left back with Leinster training and someone else can step in of the same quality.

“When you know people are so close to you and everyone’s vying for that shirt, everyone has to keep it up.

“That’s international rugby, you have to be at your peak or someone’s going to take it.”

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Ryan Bailey

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