Seán Cronin: ‘Things got a bit out of hand’ against Munster
Ireland hooker aware Leinster need to reduce penalty count for the visit of Ulster
Sean Cronin has said Leinster need to improve their discipline following their defeat to Munster. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Early in the week Leinster, players and coaches, will have stopped looking back and instead focused on the impending arrival of Ulster to the RDS on Saturday evening (kick-off 5.15pm). For most other people there is no such compulsion.
Seán Cronin didn’t play in the Munster match but wouldn’t have been able to avoid the fug of disappointment in the wake of defeat. He’d experienced it in the wake of the Champions Cup defeat to Toulouse and also in a fortuitous last gasp escape against Connacht.
He explained that Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster had spoken about the importance of being accurate and executing under pressure. The synopsis was that good players learn from mistakes. The strands of defeat at Thomond Park were picked at once again at the press briefing, Cronin acknowledging the issues had a primary source.
“Our discipline wasn’t good enough, we played nearly 60 minutes down a man and we’d another man gone as well. You’re never going to win games away from home against quality opposition like Munster with a penalty count of well over ten,” adding that the benchmark for a penalty count is well under double figures.
It dominated the half-time conversation. He continued: “The message was the penalty count was too high. We needed to bring our discipline in to where it has been. We have only had one yellow card this year or something like that so our discipline has been pretty exemplary and that is why we were doing well.
“The message was ‘lads bring it back down, get our heads right, concentrate on playing rugby’ like we probably did for the first 10 minutes when I think we had Munster under a bit of pressure. I think the lads took the message on board and, like you said, it (the indiscipline) dropped off in the second half.
“I know things probably got a bit out of hand at the weekend but I think the cards we got were more clumsy stuff instead of vicious play. I think people have been calling for a bit of bite to come back into the interpros for years; you can’t have it both ways.
“Things got a bit out of hand so I think that’s something that we definitely have to work on, instead of going above that line, we need to stay down here because we know if we stay down here and play to our ability, we’re a pretty good team. So it’s about balancing that.
“We’re going into a big, big year for Irish rugby as a whole, for the provinces, everyone still in contention for Europe, and you’ve got the Six Nations and the World Cup, there is a lot of competition for places and these games are going to fall into that.”
There are other adjustments required. Cronin cites that a primary lesson to emerge from the games against Toulouse and Connacht was that Leinster didn’t start those games well and it’s been a focus in the group narrative going forward.
Saturday’s game at the RDS is another provincial contest, albeit with a difference. Similar to the game in Galway between Connacht and Munster it pits Conference rivals against each other and therefore has a more direct impact in terms of discerning a pecking order when it comes to the Guinness Pro14 playoffs.
Cronin’s hoping that fellow hookers Ireland captain Rory Best and national squad member Rob Herring will be part of the Ulster playing contingent. “It would be a good opportunity to go up against two good players. That’s what you want to do, you want to test yourself against the best but mainly we need to put in a good performance this weekend, start well, get our discipline right, play our rugby, play the game we want to play.
“They are coming off a loss as well, you know, to Connacht down there as well, so they will be itching to get themselves back up to the level of performance where they were.”
An ancillary benefit to winning at the weekend is that it provides momentum going into the Champions Cup; Leinster host Toulouse, while Ulster welcome Racing 92 to Belfast. For 80-minutes though on Saturday evening at the RDS they’ll attend to more pressing concerns.