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Cronin relishing chance for Ireland

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Sportal.co.nz     09 Jun 2010     Getty Images

But injuries were part and parcel of the game so after being named to start in Saturday's Test in New Plymouth he was focusing hard on 'getting my head right and everything in place for Saturday to put my best foot forward'.

Playing against the All Blacks meant having your head in the right place was vital, he said.

"You're up against the best players in the world so you know it is going to be a massive test."

Cronin didn't subscribe to the view that New Zealand would be under-strength with three new players named.

"It is such a conveyor belt of fine rugby players, it is not going to make much difference," he said.

What he was looking forward to was the challenge of going up against Keven Mealamu, the experienced All Blacks hooker, and then sitting down afterwards and measuring where he was at in comparison to the likes of Mealamu, he said.

Playing the All Blacks was something he had aspired to throughout his career and while it would be big for him and his family the emotion was something he was going to have to put aside because of the challenge involved in the match itself.

"We're expecting a battle in every facet of the game. It's going to be difficult expecting to impose our game but we're preparing as best we can and we're really looking forward to Saturday," he said.

One key factor in his favour as a relative newcomer is the presence of John Hayes at prop, a player who has played rugby in New Zealand, and Cronin was hopeful of picking up some of the tricks of the trade that such an experienced campaigner had picked up.

But there's no doubting Cronin's desire to play. He left the rugby stronghold of Munster to go to Connacht in order to get game time and while Connacht was an unfashionable rugby area, the move had worked for him.

Success for the side in the Celtic League and in the European competition had increased the profile of rugby in the region and it had helped players from the area get into the national side.