James Cronin, the former Munster prop, is set to join the Leicester Tigers after one season with Top-14 club Biarritz. With Ellis Genge moving on to his boyhood club Bristol, the 31-year-old Cronin has been earmarked by the Premiership pacesetters to help fill the void at loose head.
Cronin was released by Munster at the end of last season in large part due to financial constraints and the need to trim their playing budget, even though he made more starts, 14, than any other loose head in their squad over the course of the 2020-21 campaign.
After Munster's decision to release Cronin was made known, it is believed that Connacht stepped in with a view to signing him after losing Denis Buckley to a long-term injury. In light of this it's also understood that Munster then sought to block any proposed move to Connacht by Cronin, before the player made the decision to relocate to the southwest of France.
Last season Cronin was even chosen to start the Pro-14 final against Leinster when all their props were fit, and in their two Champions Cup games he started in the win over Harlequins, and he was on the bench against Toulouse.
In all the Ballincollig, Cork, native played 144 times for Munster over the course of his eight seasons there, and won three caps for Ireland. He made his Irish debut against Argentina in the second Test of the 2016 June tour, played against Italy in Rome in the 2015 Six Nations and earned the last of his three caps against France as a replacement in Paris in 2016.
This season he has started in 12 of his 13 appearances in the Top 14 at Biarritz, whose relegation at the end of the season may have triggered a release in his contract.
At 31 he is probably in the prime of a prop's career and that Steve Borthwick and Leicester have identified Cronin as a signing shows how much they believe he still has to offer.
What's more, given that the stock of props in both Munster and Ireland at the moment is not exactly plentiful, all the more so with David Kilcoyne ruled out for the remainder of the season, Cronin's loss still seems a little puzzling.