Belfast Telegraph

Leinster well prepared for Euro bid: Cronin

By David Kelly

Last season, Leinster were too ready with the excuses for their wretched Champions Cup campaign.

By far the most risible was when they claimed difficulty with "integrating" their vast horde of international stars.

A small violin played throughout Europe as Leinster, once masters of all they surveyed on the continent just a couple of years earlier, protested weakly, and weekly, as if their star names were some sort of burden.

In the lengthy list of excuses, this deserved a crown all of its own; Leinster's demanding supporters will not be fooled again.

This season, the initial signs have been encouraging; there has been no World Cup for the province to pine over, the shadow squad have assumed more responsibility and a style of rugby that may be more fit for purpose to challenge in Europe is, slowly but surely, being incubated.

The next three weeks will reveal much before Castres, a side always on the brink of European exit even before they enter, visit the RDS; Welsh duo Ospreys and Cardiff, followed by Munster.

Sean Cronin has said that the steady momentum of his side derives from the comfort zone of an uninterrupted pre-season for all; last year's excuses, though, still get an airing.

"It is a massive difference, to get that block of pre-season, to be among the lads and work with the coaches," said the hooker. "Last year there was a huge focus on the World Cup and a lot of us were gone for the summer.

"It was a bit stop-startish when we came back and integration was tough. We came back in and there was one PRO12 game before Europe.

"It's a lot better this year, everyone is on the same page a lot quicker. We've started well and hopefully there are still some areas we can improve on.

"And building into Europe we can see that improvement. We've had more time to bed in what we're trying to do and integrate lads a bit better this year.

"We've had the time to work together throughout the pre-season and that will stand to us. It's been evident in the few games we've had, that we're keeping the ball alive and looking to offload.

"It's hard to quantify whether it's on or not but we trust each other's skill levels, and lads are now keeping the ball alive in contact; and not being stupid to push the pass. It seems to be working for us so far."

They have no excuses for it not to.

Belfast Telegraph

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