Stephen Ferris has backed John Cooney to tour with the Lions this summer as a “mid-week” player despite his absence from the Ireland squad.
Cooney hasn’t played for Ireland since he came off the bench against England in last year’s Six Nations, but has been consistently excellent for Ulster since then.
While 2009 Lions tourist Ferris didn’t go so far as to back Cooney for selection in the tests against the Springboks, he told the BBC that he believes he would be a great option for the mid-week games.
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) May 4, 2021
‘He is a very confident fella.’
“There have been loads of people banging the John Cooney drum, and the reason for that is because he hasn’t been getting recognition for his performances for Ulster in terms of getting to play for Ireland,” Ferris said.
“When it comes to scrum-halves, Ben Youngs is obviously out and he would have been on the plane. Conor Murray obviously, and then Wales’ Gareth Davies will probably go, so there is another spot there.
“Personally I wouldn’t have Ali Price going, so maybe Cooney is a bolter who can play in a mid-week team, play some running rugby and knock over the crucial kicks.
“He is a very confident fella, so he’s not the type of lad that would get selected for a Lions tour and all of a sudden go into his shell. It’ll probably bring him out of his shell even more.”
John Cooney’s case for Lions selection.
Cooney has been a key player for Ulster since he joined the northern province in 2017, but has only managed to amass 11 caps for his country despite his impressive form.
The scrum-half looked as if we was set to be a regular member of Ireland head coach Andy Farrell‘s squads after playing in the first three games of the 2020 Six Nations, but Cooney hasn’t featured since the pandemic-enforced break.
While missing out on selection for your country certainly makes it harder to be selected for the Lions, Gatland has reportedly shown an interest in four English players who didn’t make Eddie Jones’s squad for the Six Nations.
While it is not known whether Cooney is being considered by Gatland and his coaching team, there is room for a surprising call up at scrum-half, especially after England number nine Ben Youngs announced he would not be going to South Africa this summer.