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'As soon as he's had a little dip, he's out of the squad completely, which is harsh'

John Cooney’s omission from the Ireland squad was discussed on today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

IT’S BEEN A tough few weeks for John Cooney.

Having been dropped by Ulster for the Guinness Pro14 final against Leinster last month, with Alby Mathewson preferred in the number nine shirt, Cooney has now been left out of Andy Farrell’s 35-man squad for the restart of the 2020 Six Nations.

Farrell has opted for Conor Murray, the returning Kieran Marmion, and the uncapped Jamison Gibson-Park as his scrum-half options, with 21-year-old Craig Casey also involved as an additional training player.

Speaking on today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly, Bernard Jackman shared his sympathy for Cooney and underlined that there is more pressure than ever on Murray to perform.

john-cooney-dejected Cooney after the Pro14 final. Source: INPHO/James Crombie

Jackman feels that Ulster’s poor form since the restart of rugby in August hasn’t helped Cooney as the 30-year-old has gone through his own dip.

“It’s been difficult for him in a team that’s not performing,” said Jackman. “Maybe he’s a player that just needs to be completely comfortable in being the number one and the focal point for the team, which he obviously was the last couple of seasons where it was clear that if he was fit, he was going to start.

“He was probably a dominant personality in the video room, in the dressing room, where they’re looking to him for guidance. Mathewson has obviously got strong opinions on how the game should be played, a lot of experience, and part of the reason Dan would have signed him was to have that influence on and off the field.

“So maybe Cooney is just feeling the squeeze there but the most important factor is that he’s been playing behind a pack who have been really poor in terms of their set-piece delivery, really poor in terms of getting go-forward, creating quick ball and there’s been a lot of pressure on John because of that.

“It’s a big difference from how Ulster were playing over the last 12 months when he was getting an opportunity to really impose himself on the game. So I think he’s unlucky from that point of view.

“It was clear before that both Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell didn’t feel he was the number one and he got in for his chance because his form was so good but also there was a lot of pressure to give him a shot. 

“I feel sorry for him now because as soon as he’s had a little dip, he’s out of the squad completely, which is pretty harsh. 

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“Realistically, there are four nines ahead of him because you can include Casey, who is going to be in there getting reps. I do feel sorry for John Cooney.” 

john-cooney Cooney came off the bench three times for Ireland earlier this year. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Jackman believes that longstanding incumbent Murray is under serious pressure to deliver better performances in the green shirt, while he expressed the hope that Cooney responds to his omission by performing impressively for Ulster.

“I think there’s huge pressure on Conor to step up,” said Jackman. “He’s been out of form a long time and I know he’s had some injuries but there’s probably not much credit left in the bank.

“He needs to show some form and from that point of view, Cooney will feel hard done by because he’s not the only player out of form. The counter-argument is that some of the other players have a lot more credit in the bank than he has.

“It’s going to be fascinating to see how it affects Cooney mentally. Can he use this as a motivational tool and bounce back to be really dominant again? That would be a great response from him.

“I can see why he’s out, but I feel he maybe deserved to still be in the wider squad. Gibson-Park gives you tempo, Marmion gives you tempo, and hopefully, Conor gives you control and quality.”

Today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly involves Jackman joining Murray Kinsella to break down Farrell’s entire 35-man squad, working through each position to discuss who made it and who didn’t.

The lads also chatted about Joe Schmidt’s new role with World Rugby and the Pro14 weekend ahead for the four provinces.

You can listen to The42 Rugby Weekly below or on your favourite podcast app.

Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella break down Andy Farrell’s latest 35-man Ireland squad and welcome the news that Joe Schmidt is back in the game:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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