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Ireland v New Zealand: Irish have backs to wall but can double up, says Sean Cronin

By Jonathan Bradley

Reminders of what Ireland achieved two weeks ago are still everywhere you look. From the messages of congratulations for ending an 111-year hoodoo that welcome the squad upon arrival at their Carton House base, to sponsors' ads dotted around town declaring that the long-awaited victory over the mighty All Blacks was worth the wait, the sense of history having been made remains firmly in the air.

For Sean Cronin and the rest of those preparing for Saturday's Dublin rematch, however, it's time to turn the page.

The Leinster hooker came off the bench to replace Rory Best in Soldier Field, and started in a much-changed line-up against Canada last weekend, but feels that failure to back up the monumental win with another performance would take some of the gloss off a scalp already firmly secure of its place in Irish history.

"The result was fantastic, but yeah, it probably would," said the former Connacht man when asked if a defeat this week would alter his view of events across the Atlantic.

"You look back at teams that have played New Zealand and put in a performance and managed to beat them, there's always been a serious backlash.

"You can see that in the Rugby Championship with Australia and South Africa.

"We're on high alert this weekend. They're going to be massively up for the game and have a few key players coming back who are world class.

"That's going to add even more quality to their team, but yeah, it's all about this week. There's no looking back to Chicago."

For a recent reminder of what can happen when, as Joe Schmidt put it this week, you poke the bear, Ireland need only look back to their summer tour of 2012.

It was then, after a second Test when New Zealand needed a last-gasp Dan Carter drop goal to maintain their unbeaten run against the visitors, the third meeting a week later ended in a 60-0 embarrassment.

"Yeah, well there's a good example if you didn't want to look back too far. We came close the week beforehand and went out and let ourselves down the following week. They ran riot, so there's a perfect example.

"If you didn't want to be too complacent, have a look back at that match."

Complacency, you imagine, is rarely rife in the Ireland camp, with Schmidt's exacting Monday video reviews now the stuff of legend.

Even, it seems, when the team has just beaten the back-to-back World Champions.

"That's going to be driven down from the coaching staff as well and the leadership group," he said.

"You know, you've got incredibly experienced players in there that are going to make sure lads aren't getting complacent and not really patting themselves on the back too much over that result in Chicago. I think that's been a huge thing, the core grouping of players that bring so much experience, that they keep driving the standards and the quality of performance that they want, with the coaching staff that they have as well, it seems to be gelling nicely.

"Andy (defence coach, Andy Farrell) got into us a bit over how soft the tries that we conceded were.

"We didn't have to put them under too much pressure and they didn't have to break us necessarily to get over for their scores, which was a bit frustrating.

"Other areas of the game were right up there, which maybe kept us ticking over nicely.

"Their discipline on the day I don't think will be as bad as well this weekend, they gave away a lot of penalties which probably let us into the game.

"He was happy enough, but there's always areas to improve on with Joe."

As he has done for the vast majority of his international career, Cronin had to show his worth in limited minutes in Chicago.

Despite becoming a member of the 50-cap club earlier this year, the 30-year-old has made just nine starts, an unfortunate reality caused by the continued excellence of his captain Rory Best.

"A small bit, yeah," he said with a wry chuckle when it's put to him that dislodging the skipper makes his task of earning a starting spot all the more difficult.

After that rare start last time out, Cronin admitted it was a different proposition to his usual role of an impact replacement.

"I'm not going to lie, it was very enjoyable to get the run out," he said. "I've heard that stat (of just nine starts) a couple of times.

"It was a good occasion to run out, get the start and be involved in that capacity and try to make an impact on the game in the opening minutes.

"I said it last week, all you can do is go out and perform to the best of your ability and do what the coaches are looking for from you.

"Then that provides them with the headache and that's all you can do.

"Whether I'm starting or on the bench, or whether I'm involved at all.

"There's a few lads trying to get into the squad, all I can do is do my best and make that impact if I'm coming off the bench.

"I think I do offer something that coaches are looking for in terms of an impact player coming off the bench and maybe that's stood to me in other squad selections, to get me in the squad.

"Whether I'm starting, or off the bench, I'm just going to keep doing my best to try and keep the coaches happy."

  • Ireland v New Zealand, Guinness Series: Aviva Stadium, Saturday, 5.30pm

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