'The amount of scanning he does before he gets to the breakdown is phenomenal'

Ulster’s John Cooney has been a class apart this season.

John Cooney is Ireland's form 9.
John Cooney is Ireland's form 9.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THE FORM OF John Cooney was high on the agenda when Murray Kinsella and Bernard Jackman sat down for a chat on this week’s The42 Rugby Weekly.

The Ulster scrum-half has been sensational through the opening half of the season, landing crucial scores for his side and providing a fluid service for his team to attack with.

In his analysis of Cooney’s work, Jackman noted an impressive and unheralded aspect to his game. The ability to put together a picture of what is happening around the field.

“When you actually just cut up his clips, the amount of scanning he does before he gets to the breakdown is phenomenal,” said Jackman.

“I remember doing something on Aaron Smith a couple of years ago for some young 9s at Dragons and his ability to actually see the picture.”

Jackman uses the example of Cooney’s try for Ulster against the Scarlets between European fixtures to illustrate an immediate pay-off for the scrum-half’s awareness – from 45 seconds in the video below.

Source: PRO14 Rugby/YouTube

“They went wide, (Robert) Baloucoune got tackled just before the line and the Scarlets winger (Morgan Williams) just has a little go at the counter-ruck and he tries to get back out, but Cooney spots that (gap) and he barges over.

“(If) he goes down that alley and it’s a dead end, he gets shoved into touch there, it’s a huge error on his part but he just seems to be able to spot very, very quickly where the weakness is. And, as you mentioned, that outward scoot away from the breakdown, and just trying to find little gaps in the defensive line, is something that he’s added to his game.

“And also the fact that he’s a goal-kicker means he stands out just when he’s kicking last minute kicks but honestly, his all-round game is laying down a marker to the other 9s. And for sure, Conor (Murray)’s not playing badly, it’s just there’s someone putting it up to him at the moment.”

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With the Six Nations just seven weeks away, the formguide is firmly in Cooney’s favour in the bid to start 2020 in Ireland’s 9 shirt.

Bernard Jackman joined Murray Kinsella and Sean Farrell in studio to chat about this,  the Ireland captaincy and plenty about the provinces in this week’s Rugby Weekly. 

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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