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Dublin: 6°C Monday 1 March 2021

Munster defeat still nagging at 'patchy' Leinster

Sean Cronin says the inter-pro defeat is a low from from which Leinster must rise above.

Cronin with Noel Reid at training yesterday.
Cronin with Noel Reid at training yesterday.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

LEINSTER ARE A wounded animal going into the opening weekend of the Champions Cup.

The eastern province may be become used to putting slightly underwhelming starts to the season behind them for the arrival of the crunch European games. This time around though, there seems to be less of an expectation that it will all come right on the night. Instead, for Sean Cronin at least, there’s a residual anger and dissatisfaction at the standard of performance so far.

It could be just Limerick man who is struggling to let the defeat to Munster get boxed off quickly, but we doubt it. Running up a score on Zebre might have eased some of the pain of an inter-pro loss, but not a closely fought contest settled by an Ian Madigan individual special.

“From assessing the Munster game, that was the kick up the backside we needed,” says Cronin who wasn’t part of the matchday squad in Italy.

“We’ve been pretty patchy in our form this season. We’re no fools that way; we know that we haven’t been playing to our potential, so we’re just looking for that 80 minute performance.”

“We’re looking to build on the Munster loss. That’s the lowest point we can get to and we want to go from there. We got a good win against a very tricky [team] in Zebre last weekend and we’re looking to build on that again.”

Sean Cronin Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Cronin is ordinarily to be found in good humour when faced with the media mics, but in Leinster’s UCD base in Clonskeagh yesterday he was dead serious. His eyes were focused and he was itching to get out onto the training field.

“There’s a slightly different air around the place this week. Lads are on edge leading into a big European week, so we’re looking forward to that. Lads are focused and we know it’s going to be extremely difficult on the weekend against Wasps. [They’re] bang in form, great win yesterday against Bath and we’re under no illusions how tough it’s going to be.”

What will make the task easier for Leinster is if Cronin and his line-out jumpers can operate in harmony at the set-piece. And with late arrivals being drip-fed in from the southern hemisphere, Cronin was suitably pleased with the way second row Kane Douglas presented himself pre-loaded and ready to go:

“Kane has seemed to settle in brilliantly. He came in the first day and he actually knew all the line-out calls. He had looked them up on the server that we use. I was quite impressed with that.”

Kane Douglas 7/10/2014 Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

As for Ben Te’o, Cronin was speaking before meeting him at close quarters on the field, but echoed a theory offered by Roy Keane as to why new signings tend to boost a squad’s performance.

“From my own personal view, when you move clubs you’re looking to get really stuck in and impress lads. Hopefully they’re the same.”

Two players which no conceivable signings could replace are Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy. In their absence Cronin’s explosive power is likely to be used more often as Matt O’Connor looks to go the direct way about breaking Wasps open. The hooker himself wasn’t giving anything away, but urged more players to up their level to help ensure O’Brien and Healy’s absence could be absorbed.

“It’s not easy to lose players of their calibre, both in attack and defence. But there have been a few lads, Rhys Ruddock has been superb this season, Jamie [Heaslip too]. We probably need a few more lads to put their hand up.

“Losing players like that isn’t easy and everyone needs to buy in and get stuck in a little bit more because that’s how we get our game going is getting over that gainline.”

Snapshot: ‘Outstanding athlete’ Ben Te’o had his first Leinster training session yesterday

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Sean Farrell

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