Andy Farrell’s decision to omit John Cooney from the Ireland squad for this month’s resumption of the delayed 2020 Six Nations has unsurprisingly been discussed at great length online. 

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The Ulster scrum-half has missed out on a place in the 35-man squad behind Conor Murray, Kieran Marmion and recently qualified Jamison Gibson-Park. The New Zealand-born half-back also pipped his provincial teammate Luke McGrath, which shows the wealth of options Ireland have. 

Cooney was undeniably Ireland’s form No9 at the beginning of 2020 but was only handed three bench appearances during the Six Nations, replacing Murray in all three. He was likely to start in Ireland’s penultimate fixture against Italy before Covid-19 dashed that hope. 

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Since the PRO14 restart in August, Cooney has not been able to recapture the form he was showing earlier in the year and was even dropped to the bench for last month’s final against Leinster. 

His dip in form has been noted by many outraged fans, but his Ireland omission has come as a shock nonetheless with the feeling that he had enough credit in the bank to warrant maintaining his place in the squad. 

On the subject of form, Murray’s performances over the past twelve months have repeatedly been brought up online. Although the Munster player has a respected reputation at Test level to fall back on that Cooney does not, he has not of late been able to replicate his world-class form of two years ago. 

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This has subsequently flagged another conspiratorial issue, that players who are centrally contracted with the Irish Rugby Football Union receive preferential treatment. But given the competition that there is, there are surely other factors that have played a part in Farrell’s decision. 

It is hard to name a player, though, whose Test career has been more scuppered by 2020’s break than Cooney, who has struggled to catch a break in green. He looked to have put the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup behind him last season but he will need to show that resolve again to bounce back. 

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