Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has trimmed down his squad ahead of their warm-weather training camp in Portugal, culling three players to make a group of 40.

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The three players to miss out on a place are Connacht’s Finlay Bealham, Munster’s Mike Haley and Ulster’s John Cooney.

But it is scrum-half Cooney’s omission that has shocked fans on social media, particularly given the situation that Ireland are in.

Cooney has never really been given a chance under Schmidt, and this is despite many fans feeling he was the form scrum-half in Ireland last season. The New Zealander has gone for Conor Murray, Luke McGrath and Kieran Marmion for now, three players he has always favoured over Cooney.

However, what separates the Ulster scrum-half from the other three is the fact that he can also play at fly-half. That is particularly important given the ankle injury to Joey Carbery against Italy at the weekend. The Munster fly-half is set to miss the next six to eight weeks, leaving only Jonathan Sexton, Ross Byrne and Jack Carty in the squad.

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Schmidt is likely to limit Sexton’s playing time going into the World Cup, and indeed during the tournament where possible, so having a versatile player like Cooney in the squad could have proved valuable.

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But ultimately, with eight half backs initially in the squad, some were inevitably going to miss out, and Cooney has been the first to go, although it has surprised some.

This has been the reaction on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/prsoldboy_9/status/1161630242366197761?s=20
https://twitter.com/kenfitzg/status/1161626393106681861?s=20
https://twitter.com/OdhranLusby/status/1161621528146059270?s=20
https://twitter.com/PaulieCeee/status/1161624333632098305?s=20
https://twitter.com/graeme247/status/1161625429511495680?s=20
https://twitter.com/ruthiemcc79/status/1161626846632599553?s=20
https://twitter.com/Culbylfc/status/1161622055088902145?s=20

Ireland will spend the next week in Portugal, before heading back to face England at Twickenham on the 24th. After naming an experimental side to face Italy last weekend, Schmidt may call upon some of his more experienced players, meaning Sexton could well get a run-out. Then again, after Carbery’s injury, he will not want to lose his first choice fly-half either.

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