Former England captain Chris Robshaw has admitted confusion over why John Cooney continues to be omitted from Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad.
Cooney has been in exceptional form since he joined Ulster in 2017, but has only amassed 11 caps for Ireland to date and hasn’t featured for his country since the loss to England in the 2020 Six Nations.
Robshaw was writing in his column for The XV and questioned why the Ulster scrum-half has been given so few opportunities in a green shirt under head coach Farrell.
In fairness when DuPont does that we laud him. Class offload John Cooney. 👏 https://t.co/PodSvVYc7C
— Brian O’Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) February 22, 2021
“When I look at that squad, from a neutral’s perspective, I can’t quite believe John Cooney hasn’t been involved,” Robshaw wrote.
“We played against him in the Champions Cup and the skill and speed of the guy is something else.
“I know they’re going with Conor Murray and Jamison Gibson-Park but, for me, Cooney could give them that extra attacking dimension.”
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.
Despite calls for change after the quarter-final exit from the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Cooney has never been given an opportunity to start under Farrell, having won his three caps in 2020 off the bench.
The Ulster talisman did suffer a slight dip in form in the latter stages of 2020, but has been absolutely crucial to his side on a number of occasions, and is now back to playing at his best.
While Robshaw doesn’t agree with Farrell’s decision to keep Cooney out of the Ireland team, the former Harlequins man does have faith in the current Ireland coach.
“The big decisions, of course, come down to their coach Andy Farrell. I know Andy well, he’s a man with real presence,” Robshaw explained.
“What he’s achieved in both codes, especially rugby league, gives him instant respect but what you don’t see are the little touches behind the scenes.”
Despite his impressive form, Cooney is currently behind Conor Murray, Jamison Gibson-Park and Craig Casey in the Ireland pecking order.
While Cooney does have a good few years of rugby left in him at the age of 30, it’s hard to see the Ulster player getting too many more opportunities for Ireland the way things stand.