Rugby

Rónan Kelleher Explains How Sean Cronin Broke The Mould As A Hooker

Rónan Kelleher Explains How Sean Cronin Broke The Mould As A Hooker

For years now Leinster have had huge depth in their squad. It would harder to find any squad in World Rugby with more international caps than Leinster. There's huge quality across the field, but one position that has really excelled in the last year has been at hooker. The unit of Rónan Kelleher, Dan Sheehan and Sean Cronin has to be one of the best in the world. They are all Ireland internationals and in Sheehan and Kelleher, there's possibly two Lions players in the future.

Everyone is very aware of Rónan Kelleher now after his exploits in November. Ever since he mad his Leinster debut in February 2019 his freakish athleticism and try-scoring ability have shone. He's a far cry from the stubby, less mobile hookers some of us would have watched back in the days.

Dan Sheehan made his first Ireland squad last month and plays quite similarly to Kelleher. The Clongowes talent is also very quick and has a penchant for scoring tries. However he also has very silky hands and isn't afraid to throw the offload. Sheehan also is quite tall for a hooker, standing around 6 foot 3 which he uses to his advantage very well.

Athletic hookers like Kelleher and Sheehan have been all the range now in modern rugby and many credit All Blacks hooker Dane Coles with popularising the play style.

However Kelleher feels that Sean Cronin too deserves some credit too, as he said during the launch of the Heineken Champions Cup for the 2021/22 season.

Everyone talks about how Dane Coles revolutionised the position but in my opinion Sean Cronin was probably doing that before him, he was probably the first person to do it.

I think he was the first one really that showed that explosive pace and flair. He was really the first guy in world rugby in my opinion to do it, suppose you could go back to Keith Wood as well, but in the modern game it has to be him (Cronin).

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Cronin has been with Leinster since 2011 when he moved to Dublin from Connacht and the now 35-year-old became a fan favourite very quickly at the RDS due to his surprising pace and try record. Just looking at the him you wouldn't expect him to be much of a threat outside, but as many wingers would tell you, if he gets going it's very hard to catch him.

He credits his speed with having to chase his younger brothers at home when he was a kid. Many backs would wish to have the try record Cronin has, with nearly 50 tries for Leinster and a further six for Ireland and when you consider Cronin came off the bench earlier in his career, his tries per minute stat would be very impressive. His highlights are a joy to watch.

Players like Cronin used to be an anomaly but they're slowly starting to become the norm and the veteran hooker deserves a lot of credit for that.

Ronan Kelleher was speaking before the start of the 2021/22 Heineken® Champions Cup next weekend, which marks the 27th consecutive season Heineken® has been a proud partner of European rugby, and the fifth season of the Heineken® and Rugby Players Ireland partnership.

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Jonathan Browne

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