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.”
Continue reading below…
WATCH: Team captains pose for a photo with the Six Nations Trophy.
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.
There are no bounds to what John Cooney will do to be ready for Ulster https://t.co/fu3f0VCqbf
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 8, 2020
“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:
Josh van der Flier
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now