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Cronin Hails O’Connell’s Influence As Captain

Cronin Hails O’Connell’s Influence As Captain

Ireland hooker Sean Cronin has praised captain Paul O’Connell for his ‘phenomenal achievement’ in reaching 100 caps for his country. O’Connell will hit the milestone against Wales on Saturday afternoon.

Paulie (O’Connell) is getting better with it even as the years go on. But he’s the kind of player that whenever he’s playing, he nearly makes you play better because that’s the enthusiasm, the passion, the physicality that he brings,” admitted Sean Cronin ahead of the RBS 6 Nations game in Cardiff.

“He kind of instils that in the players around him. It’s great to play under him. He sets the standard and you’ve got to get up there with him. He’ll demand it off you one way or another, so it’s great to play with a person like that, because it raises your standards as well.”

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Such is O’Connell’s command as a captain and talismanic leader, Cronin conceded that he has had to ‘nip to the toilet a couple of times to dry my eyes’ due to the skipper’s stirring pre-match words. “He scares me more than makes me cry, to be honest with you,” quipped the 28-year-old.

Due to Rory Best’s durability and consistent form at hooker, Cronin has been used as an impact substitute for much of his Test career. Of his 41 caps to date, 34 have come as a replacement. He did it to telling effect as a try scorer against Italy last year.

Being introduced off the bench, Cronin says he keeps an eye on what plays have been used already in the lineout, as it is likely they will not be used again. Fitting in and the impact he can have on the pitch is what Joe Schmidt will look for and having O’Connell by his side helps lift both his and the team’s game.

“Paulie brings a certain level, you see him doing it, his intensity, physicality, attention to detail. So when you see him doing that, you’re saying to yourself, ‘I need to get to that as well’. If 15 or 23 lads get to that level, we’re hard to beat.

“He’s similar to Joe in some ways. Paulie isn’t going to get to the heights of Test rugby that he has without hard work and accuracy. He’s got great influence on the squad, the lads buy into that and he’s fantastic to have around.”

Expanding on the role of a replacement, he added: “There’s less room (at international level compared to provincial games). It does tend to open up a small bit, but it’s more a mentality of coming on and fitting in first, bringing stability to the game in defence and attack and focusing on what you have to do to get the team over the line.”

Cronin lined out for Leinster in their GUINNESS PRO12 loss at the Scarlets last weekend and has had to quickly put that disappointing result to one side. It is now all systems go for the Millennium Stadium and the opening match of round 4 in this year’s Championship.

“There is a bit of a lull with those week breaks, lads go back to their provinces and other lads have their mini camps away, it brings a small bit of pressure down.

“Obviously it builds up again when you come back in, but lads are refreshed and ready to go. Joe doesn’t have much room for complacency anyway,” insisted Cronin.