Does Keith Wood think John Cooney has overtaken Conor Murray and Luke McGrath?


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Raf Diallo
Raf Diallo

18.19 27 Nov 2019


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Ulster have won two from two in the Heineken Champions Cup so far and John Cooney has played a very central role.

Joe Schmidt left the scrum-half out of Ireland's Rugby World Cup squad. But he has been a revelation at provincial level this season.

The ex-Leinster and Connacht player scored a brilliant individual try for Ulster against Clermont-Auvergne last Friday. And his overall performances have pushed him into the thoughts of many when it comes to Andy Farrell's Ireland selections for the forthcoming Six Nations.

But will he get ahead of incumbent Conor Murray? And has he over-taken World Cup deputy Luke McGrath of Leinster. Ex-Ireland captain Keith Wood addressed that on Wednesday Night Rugby.

He believes Cooney's age shouldn't be a factor that puts off the new Ireland head coach.

"He's playing really, really well and I think he really is snapping on [their heels]," he said.

French 9

"I disagree over the age of 29 in cycles. I don't think that has to be a factor. And it's funny because I'm a fan of youth and you want the youth to come through."

As he added, John Cooney plays like a "French 9" in the sense that he runs the game, which made him a perfect Ruan Pienaar successor at Ulster.

"That's not a traditional Irish '9' - not even vaguely to take on that role and leadership," Keith continued.

"He's got a bit of a verbal edge to him too and I think that's great and you want your '9' to be vocal and a bit angry. I think he puts himself well up there.

"I would agree that I don't think Murray has gone back to his best. But I will say that at the [Munster] match on Saturday, Murray started running again with the ball. He hasn't done that with Ireland at all in the World Cup.

"His confidence is growing and coming back and we want to see him back at his best. Because at his best, he's absolutely brilliant. I think McGrath has been a little bit up and down, both in the World Cup and since. So I think Cooney is well up there. You've got a new coach coming in, so is he going to throw out everybody? Or is he going to say, 'We're going to play differently and lads you're going to have to play this way? ' I'm hoping that will be the case where 'just because you've played well in the past with a particular game-plan that you're obviously a shoe-in', I don't think that will be the case."

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Andy Farrell Clermont Heineken Champions Cup Ireland Joe Schmidt John Cooney Luke Mcgrath Off The Ball Rugby Ulster

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