Ireland Boss Andy Farrell On Why He Selected Conor Murray Over In-Form John Cooney

Number nine.

Ireland boss Andy Farrell ushered in a new era for Irish Rugby yesterday afternoon when he named his first matchday squad since taking the top job as his side prepare to open up their 2020 Six Nations campaign with a visit of Scotland to Dublin.

Farrell has handed the uncapped Caelan Dorris a start at number eight, with provincial teammate Ronan Kelleher set to make his debut from the bench.

Robbie Henshaw will also look to make an impact from the bench with the centre handed the number 23 shirt. Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose will start in midfield against the Scots. Andrew Conway meanwhile has been handed a rare start on the right wing.

But perhaps the biggest call of them all was Farrell’s decision to stick with Conor Murray at nine over the in-form John Cooney who has been nothing short of a revelation for Ulster this season.

So why Murray? Farrell indicated that Murray’s leadership and experience got him the nod over Cooney with the Munster nine also coming into form himself with a man of the match performance in his last game against Ospreys.

Farrell also added that Cooney missed some sessions since joining up with Ireland as a result of HIA protocols.

“Well, we watch and we see how the group’s taking shape and I think, first and foremost, Conor has been great,” Farrell said.

“He’s been great around the group, he’s been in good form, he’s in a very determined mood and certainly in a leadership role as well, he’s very experienced.”

“He’s in great form.”

“I understand all the chat around John because so is he. He’s a good player, but in our squad we have three good scrum-halves and Luke [McGrath], he’s the one who misses out. He’s been training really well too.

“I feel for Luke but we’ve got to make a decision and we go with Conor to start with and John will come on and do a good job for us.

“John’s in great form, he’s part of this squad and he’s in fine form. He has had a few days that he missed through the HIA protocols but still, as I said before, Conor has been going great guns in camp and John has been supporting him within that role.”

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