The one Ireland omission Chris Robshaw 'can't quite believe'
Despite excellent form for Ulster in the last two seasons, Cooney has been regularly overlooked by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell since he took over the reins in Dublin. The halfback was called into the Ireland squad as injury cover in February, but hasn’t been able to get anywhere near the team.
Writing in his column in TheXV.rugby, Robshaw, writing as a neutral, just can’t get over the omission.
“When I look at that squad, from a neutral’s perspective, I can’t quite believe John Cooney hasn’t been involved.
“We played against him in the Champions Cup and the skill and speed of the guy is something else. I know they’re going with Conor Murray and Jamison Gibson-Park but, for me, Cooney could give them that extra attacking dimension.
“The big decisions, of course, come down to their coach Andy Farrell. I know Andy well, he’s a man with real presence. What he’s achieved in both codes, especially rugby league, gives him instant respect but what you don’t see are the little touches behind the scenes.”
“When I became England captain back in 2012, we didn’t know each other but after the first huddle he said, ‘It’s all easy from now on, just play your game and do what you always do’. Before that, I was fretting thinking, ‘Shall I do this, shall I do that?’ but his words put me at ease. We never had long sit-down chats but he was always there, passing on bits of advice.”
Robshaw, who is enjoying a new adventure in the MLR in the Autumn of his career, says he was shocked to see the retirement of 30-year-old Ireland No.8 CJ Stander during the week.
“It was a shock in the week to see CJ (Stander) is hanging up his boots. The go-forward he gets in collisions is quite incredible. I read his farewell letter and one sentence struck a chord with me, ‘as a player you just know when it’s time’. I felt like that at Quins. Sometimes you know it’s the right time to do something different.
"The highest compliment I can pay Owen Farrell is that if he’s not in training the intensity drops to about 60 per cent. He’s that vocal and driven every single day."
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) March 19, 2021
“Beyond the summer, it will be interesting who replaces him. They have some good players like Jack Conan, who is starting at No8, and young players like Caelan Doris and Gavin Coombes coming through, but he’s a tough act to follow. ”
“As a player, I faced Ireland seven times, winning five and losing on two occasions. Whatever their form, they are a side you always treat with respect.”
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