Former Irish international Alan Quinlan has omitted form scrumhalf John Cooney and star wing Jacob Stockdale from his proposed Ireland XV to face Scotland.


Cooney’s fine form for Ulster in both the PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup has made him many favourite to usurp long-standing Ireland nine Conor Murray.

However former Munster backrow Quinlan prefers his old teammate Murray, insisting that the Limerick born nine is returning to the form that saw him become arguably the world’s best scrumhalf in 2017. Murray struggled for form after returning from a chronic neck injury, but Quinlan believes he is getting back to his best.

“Cooney was a strong front-runner heading into Christmas, but in recent weeks I feel the crisp Conor Murray of old has started to re-emerge,” Quinlan wrote in his Irish Independent article. “Murray’s defensive attributes – essentially operating as an extra back-rower – and his storied partnership with Sexton see him shade it, with Cooney to get the guts of 30 minutes off the bench against a, hopefully, tiring Scottish defence.”

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Last week new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell refused to be drawn on who was the front runner for the competitive nine position. “There is a lot of people being asked a lot of questions about John Cooney today and he is playing really well,” said Farrell. “He is really confident and he is loving his rugby at this moment of time.”

“But we picked five scrum-halves in the camp just before Christmas and Caolin Blade and Jamison (Gibson-Park) were very unlucky to miss out on this squad because they were playing good rugby as well.

“At the same time Luke McGrath got man of the match at the weekend, Conor Murray got man of the match at the weekend and as I said, a big thing for us driving forward has got to be competition for places – and that is certainly one of those positions.”


There is also no room for Jacob Stockdale who Quinlan says must improve his defence. “Jacob Stockdale is unlucky to miss out, but his defensive lapses need to be ironed out.”

Alan Quinlan’s XV for Scotland:

Cian Healy
Ronan Kelleher
Tadhg Furlong
Devin Toner
James Ryan
Peter O’Mahoney
Josh van der Flier
Caelen Doris
Conor Murray
Jonny Sexton
Jordan Larmour
Robbie Henshaw
Garry Ringrose
Keith Earls
Will Addison

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