MUNSTER FORWARDS COACH Graham Rowntree says the province have the quality to cope with the departure of loosehead prop James Cronin, who will leave Thomond Park at the end of the season.

Cronin’s departure was announced last week, with the 30-year-old set to end a nine-year stint with his home province.

In the short statement released by Munster to confirm the news, head coach Johann van Graan referenced the “current environment” as a factor in the decision, something which was also touched on when Darren Sweetnam departed for La Rochelle and JJ Hanrahan signed up with Clermont.

Yesterday, forwards coach Graham Rowntree was asked if he could shed a little more light on Cronin’s situation.

“Not really. There’s not much more to add from our statement,” Rowntree said.

“I think he has been very good for us this year and I think in any career, you’ve got to experience something new, which he will be looking to do.

“I can’t speak highly enough about working with the guy and wherever he goes, he will be successful.”

Cronin’s exit could leave the province looking a little light at loosehead during international windows next season, presuming Dave Kilcoyne continues to feature in Andy Farrell’s plans.

Eight of Jeremy Loughman’s nine appearances this season have come off the bench, Liam O’Connor has featured just five times while highly-rated Academy loosehead Josh Wycherly will graduate to a senior contract next season after some impressive displays for the senior side.

And Rowntree says Munster are confident they have the resources to cope with losing a player of Cronin’s experience. 

“It’s a very, very competitive position,” Rowntree continued.

Graham Rowntree during a Munster training session on Tuesday. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

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“I think we’ve seen that this season with the performances of the guys there. Jeremy Loughman and Liam [O’Connor] in particular. Then Josh [Wycherley] took his chance, that game he had in Clermont was incredible.

“Stocks are good there. Guys do come through and guys leave the club, that’s just the nature of clubs.”

Rowntree also eased any fears about Conor Murray’s fitness after the scrum-half was ruled out of Friday’s game against Cardiff Blues.  

Murray is due to tour South Africa with the Lions this summer, but will miss this weekend’s game with what the province describe as a “low-grade” leg injury.

And Rowntree says Munster’s Lions contingent – namely Murray and Tadhg Beirne – won’t be worrying about minding themselves on the pitch ahead of the tour to South Africa. 

“Injuries are always there, that’s part of the game, dealing with injuries,” Rowntree said.

“I don’t think that’s at the front of their minds, worrying about injuries. They just have to, not worry about their performance, but ensuring they put in their best performance on the field.

“It’s not tricky (to strike the right balance), they’ve just got to play well and think about playing well for selection for the Lions. That’s what I remember doing as a player and that’s what the Lions coaches will want, guys giving it their all vying for that Test 23.”

Munster head into Friday’s game against Cardiff knowing their Rainbow Cup fate is now out of their hands following the round three defeat to Connacht. With the Blues also boasting a record of two wins and one defeat, both teams know they can’t afford any more slip-ups.

“It’s a knock-out game,” Rowntree continued.

“We’ve played against them twice this year, they’re a good team. Dai [Young] has made a change there going in. They’re a physical team, good defensively, good in the breakdown, massive attacking threat as well, a running 10 and running 9 threat. We’ll have our hands full, which is exactly what we need. 

“We’re ready for it. We’ve certainly trained with this in mind and our preparation has gone really well. 

“We want to win this (tournament). We said that right from the outset. I think our selections have reflected that as well, and certainly our performances up until the disappointment, and that last third of the game against Connacht in particular. 

“But we are taking it very seriously.”

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