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'I would back myself' - Cronin believes he's still in the Lions frame

The Leinster hooker is positive about making a full recovery from his hamstring injury.

SEAN CRONIN’S HAMSTRING tear came at a cruel time, but having moved past the initial dejection, the Leinster and Ireland hooker is backing himself to rebound strongly.

He is resigned to missing the entirety of the Six Nations after being ruled out for 10 weeks, but Cronin believes he is still very much in the Lions frame.

1259675 Sean Cronin launched the inaugural Irish Minigolf Open at Rainforest Adventure Golf. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

The 30-year-old is an explosive option off the bench, of course, and has performed superbly for Ireland in that role in recent seasons.

Rory Best and Dylan Hartley may be the two favourites to start for the Lions right now, but Cronin believes he offers something interesting to head coach Warren Gatland, even if he’s going to miss the audition that is the Six Nations.

“I’d back myself,” said Cronin yesterday. “I think I offer something different, in terms of the way they will pick the squad, off the bench. Going to New Zealand, the type of games they could be down there.

“I thought I was playing well to put myself in the frame, definitely, for the short list, if you want to put it that way. I still think there’s an opportunity to try and play well.

“The Six Nations, obviously, has a huge bearing on who is going to go on that tour. They are the elite games and the guys that play well in those elite games are the frontrunners.

“But if he’s looking for something outside of the box, someone that’s going to bring something different, I think I am one of the best around to do that. Hopefully, that can keep me in the reckoning.”

It’s refreshing to hear a player so openly state their desire to tour with the Lions, as well as offering up clear reasons for their candidature.

Sean Cronin pulls up with a injury Cronin tore his hamstring against Zebre two weekends ago. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

While some supporters’ interest in the Lions may have dwindled, Cronin says it is still very much a motivating factor for the players.

“I won’t name names but when you get talking to a couple of lads, you can see that they want to play well for Ireland because they know if they do that, they will be in the shop window for Lions selection,” said Cronin.

“Especially guys who have not been on it before; they are really looking to get on that plane. It is still a massive carrot for a lot of the guys to have that accolade of playing for the Lions.”

Cronin’s absence now opens a door in the Ireland matchday 23 for the back-up slot behind captain Best, with a number of interesting contenders.

James Tracy won his first Test cap against Canada last November, while Munster’s Niall Scannell is perhaps the most in-form hooker in the country. Rob Herring is set to miss the start of the Six Nations with a knee ligament injury, but the experienced Richardt Strauss is fit.

Joe Schmidt is also understood to be a fan of Connacht man Dave Heffernan’s potential, meaning there are a range of options for the Ireland head coach.

Cronin has certainly noticed growing competition at Leinster, particularly in the shape of 25-year-old Tracy.

“He has come on very well,” said Cronin. “He has got a couple of good opportunities from the staff in Leinster to play and played well, and got his cap in November, so he’s motoring nicely and there’s a lot competition at hooker around the country at the moment, guys playing decent rugby.

“So if he gets another chance this weekend then it gives him another chance to put himself in the shop window.

James Tracy James Tracy won his first Ireland cap in November. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“You’ve got Richardt coming back and Bryan Byrne, so a lot of competition in Leinster alone, and other guys playing well around the country, so it will be interesting to see the shake up when the Six Nations squad is announced.”

While his rivals and team-mates will be training and playing with Leinster and Ireland in the coming weeks, Cronin faces the monotony of rehabilitating his hamstring tear.

He found it tough to even get into his car in the days after suffering the injury against Zebre two weekends ago, but now has decent mobility and is working out on the stationary bike and doing one-legged rowing.

He “dodged a bullet” in that the hamstring was not torn off the bone, meaning no requirement for surgery. But with a 50% rate of re-injuring with this type of hamstring tear, he will be cautious and diligent with his recovery.

Cronin sees the time out as a chance to become a better athlete and a better player. Key to that process will be remedying a longstanding issue with his shoulder, as well as working on his running technique and pelvis positioning to ensure his hamstring doesn’t tear again.

“I just think with the way I’m shaped, with a big chest and my chest arched and stuff, it doesn’t help me,” explains Cronin. “The way my hips are and my pelvis, if I can try and get work done there, it helps you to sit right, run better and puts you in less of a risk area of doing damage to your hamstrings.

“It’s just stuff to help me sit better, run better, have my body in less of a stress situation when I’m going through pressure moments in a game where I’m accelerating, taking off or in the scrum or using my power.

“It’s activation stuff, core, trying to get my pelvis tilted, it’s stuff you’ve got to do every day. It’s very robotic and kind of boring and it’s a bummer I’m going to be out but it’s a good opportunity to get myself right so this never happens again.”

Sean Cronin officially launched the inaugural Irish Minigolf Open at Rainforest Adventure Golf in Dundrum. The Irish Minigolf Open is set to take place on Saturday February 18th and Sunday February 19th in Rainforest Adventure Golf.

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Murray Kinsella

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