AS with any player who wants to play in the international side, Cork’s James Cronin knows that he has to be starting regularly with his province to stick his hand up for selection.
He is facing into two huge weekends of rugby and will be aiming to convince Joe Schmidt that he’s a player the coach needs to take to Australia for the summer tour.
That is the Ballincollig native’s goal for the remainder of the season, to work the numbers game in his favour and jump up the pecking order in Ireland.
With his knee injury sorted, Cronin has begun to build a head of steam, with Munster coach Johann van Graan singing his praises loudly after the Castres European Champions Cup game at Thomond Park.
His goal remains clear though and this weekend’s clash against Scarlets will form part of the plan to achieve his season goal.
“If selected (for Scarlets) I’d love to go out and put a good performance in and put my hand up for Toulon because it’s always those big games in Thomond Park that you want to play in. These are two games where you want to play and get a bit of form and fitness and then look ahead to Australia at the end of the year,” says the prop.
“That’s the goal to get to Australia for the Irish tour and if you’re not starting for your province you can’t expect to be selected to be picked internationally so that’s the goal.”
His injuries have played a part in his omission from the Irish set-up but the 27-year-old knows what’s expected from him and knows he can expect a call from Joe Schmidt in the coming weeks with any improvements he needs to make in his game.
“I’m sure he will be when the dust settles in a couple of weeks time that we might link up with a phone call or whatever.
"That was the thing when I was left out of the Irish squad.
"I didn’t do anything wrong. They were very happy with me when I left camp, it was just a numbers thing. It was just a numbers thing so I have to work the numbers in my favour and we’ll just make contact. If he sees anything in my game that he wants me to improve I’ll do my very best to do that.”
That last statement shows the growing maturity that Cronin is showing both on and off the pitch.
A firebrand when he broke into the Munster squad he has gained perspective from his time out with injuries and naturally with age.
He says that new coach Johann van Graan has had a part to play in him getting back to his best and even though it was strange to change coaches during the season that van Graan’s approachability was you feel the right man in the right place at the right time for Cronin.
There is mutual admiration in the relationship between player and coach.
Cronin had only come back into the side that week but still had the gas in the tank for an 80m kick chase that had his provincial coach raving about the loosehead.
“I suppose I had a frustrating start to the season because I had a knee injury and I just couldn’t get it right and then Johann came in and things just kinda clicked.
“I found a bit of form and I suppose fitness has been the goal and the key to getting back into the team.
“He’s a bit more approachable and I need that I suppose.
"Axel (Foley) was always a good coach for me he understood me and my position and Johann is kinda similar in that he understands me and knows how to get the best out of me.”
As if to reinforce the maturity statement, Cronin says that he was delighted for his Ireland teammates when they won the Grand Slam instead of feeling envy.
“Nah before now I would have thought ‘Aw I should be in there’ or whatever but when you mature up you start thinking ‘I am where I am’ and you try to improve every day to get there and if it doesn’t happen, so be it.
"It’s not anything you’ve done yourself.
"You’ve ticked all the boxes, you’ve worked as hard as you can.
"You just didn’t get picked so if it is meant to be it will fall in place but you’d be delighted for the lads.
"I saw Earlsie there who has lost so many semi-finals to come and win a Grand Slam it’s great."
Facing Scarlets is never an easy task but this weekend’s game will be even more difficult for a depleted Munster side.
The Welsh side humbled the Reds in the PRO12 final last season, one Cronin had to sit out due to injury and he knows that if given the room, Scarlets will be a tough test.
“I’m not too sure if they will have their Wales internationals back but even with their Welsh internationals gone they’re a strong outfit.
"We all know how good they are in attack.
"I was unfortunate enough to be in the stand when they beat us in the PRO12 final and that was tough viewing and if you give them a sniff they punish you so we know that better than any team,” says Cronin.