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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 3 March 2021

Ulster scrum-half John Cooney set to miss out on Farrell's Ireland squad

The 30-year-old came off the bench three times during the Six Nations earlier this year.

ULSTER SCRUM-HALF John Cooney is set to miss out on a place in the Ireland squad for the resumption of the 2020 Six Nations later this month.

The 30-year-old had been pushing Conor Murray for a spot in Ireland’s starting XV earlier this year prior to lockdown but has struggled for form since the restart of rugby in August.

The42 understands that Cooney is set to miss out on being part of Farrell’s squad, which is due to be named tomorrow morning.

john-cooney-dejected-after-the-game Cooney came off the bench three times in the Six Nations earlier this year. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Cooney made his Ireland debut back in 2017 and has been a key figure for Ulster in recent seasons, leading to repeated calls for his promotion into Ireland’s number nine shirt.

Joe Schmidt omitted him from Ireland’s World Cup squad last year but Cooney bounced back to return to the international fold under Farrell earlier this year, playing three times off the bench as he applied pressure to starting scrum-half Murray.

However, Cooney hasn’t been at his best since rugby resumed post-lockdown and he was dropped by Ulster for the Guinness Pro14 final against Leinster last month, with veteran Kiwi scrum-half Alby Mathewson preferred as the starter.

Murray has been sidelined with a thigh injury recently but is set for a return to training with Munster this week.

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Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion has impressed in his two outings since rugby’s resumption. 28-year-old Marmion also missed out on World Cup selection last year and subsequently suffered back and ankle injuries.

The Connacht man is fully fit again and could be in line for a return to the Ireland squad, while Leinster’s Jamison Gibson-Park is also in good form.

Gibson-Park, a New Zealand native who qualifies for Ireland on residency grounds, is uncapped but featured in a training squad under Farrell last December. Luke McGrath, who was part of the World Cup squad last year, has been preferred to Gibson-Park for Leinster’s biggest games in recent seasons and remains among the options for Farrell.

Meanwhile, The42 understands that Farrell could include Munster’s 21-year-old scrum-half Craig Casey in his autumn squad as a ‘development player.’

Earlier this year, the Ireland boss brought Ryan Baird, Harry Byrne, Robert Baloucoune, and Will Connors into his squad as development players, allowing them to get experience of Ireland camp, and it’s thought he will do something similar this time around.

Ireland’s Six Nations campaign restarts on 24 October against Italy in Dublin before a trip to Paris to take on France on 31 October. They will also face Wales, England, and Georgia in the Autumn Nations Cup in November, with a play-off game to follow on 5 December.

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Murray Kinsella

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