Saturday 24 March 2018

Cooney returns to boost Ulster

Ulster's John Cooney Photo: Sportsfile
Ulster's John Cooney Photo: Sportsfile

Jonathan Bradley

Ulster have been boosted by the return of scrum-half John Cooney from Ireland camp in time to take on Scarlets in Llanelli tonight.

The former Leinster and Connacht man has been in fine form - indeed he has arguably been the side's best player during his first campaign in Belfast - and was unlucky to miss out on Joe Schmidt's initial Six Nations squad.

Injury to Leinster's Luke McGrath saw him called down to Carton House this week for training, but after Kieran Marmion was picked to back up Conor Murray, the 27-year-old was released back to his province.

His presence in Parc y Scarlets has left Ulster with an unchanged half-back pairing after Johnny McPhillips was passed fit. The young out-half was taken off before half-time against Edinburgh last week with a shoulder problem but has come through training unscathed to claim the ten shirt.

With Cooney and McPhillips ready for action, head coach Jono Gibbes, in his first away game in charge, has made only two changes.

Winger and top scorer Craig Gilroy is ruled out after the rib injury he sustained last time out, is replaced by Andrew Trimble who will be making his first start for the province since the loss to Leinster in the first weekend of January.

The only other alteration comes in the front-row where Rob Herring, who has been carrying an elbow injury, drops to the bench to be replaced by John Andrew.

Verdict: Scarlets

SCARLETS - T Williams; C Baldwin, P Asquith, S Hughes (capt), I Nicholas; D Jones, J Evans; D Evans, R Elias, W Kruger, S Cummins, D Bulbring, T Beirne, J Davies, J Macleod

Reps: E Phillips, P Price, S Gardiner, L Rawlins, W Boyde, D Smith, I Hughes, R Conbeer.

ULSTER - L Ludik; A Trimble, L Marshall, S McCloskey, T Bowe; J McPhillips, J Cooney; A Warwick, J Andrew, W Herbst, A O'Connor (Capt), K Treadwell, M Rea, N Timoney, J Deysel. Reps: R Herring, K McCall, R Ah You, M Dalton, C Henry, P Marshall, P Nelson, D Cave.

Irish Independent

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