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'It's more strength in depth if we want to be competing to win trophies' - Cooney glad for half-back help

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Ireland & Ulster Rugby Player and Tackle Your Feelings ambassador, John Cooney, who is encouraging people to set goals and work towards them in order to take ‘Take Control’ of their mental well-being. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Ireland & Ulster Rugby Player and Tackle Your Feelings ambassador, John Cooney, who is encouraging people to set goals and work towards them in order to take ‘Take Control’ of their mental well-being. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Ireland & Ulster Rugby Player and Tackle Your Feelings ambassador, John Cooney, who is encouraging people to set goals and work towards them in order to take ‘Take Control’ of their mental well-being. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Ireland scrum-half John Cooney has welcomed the additional half-back competition at Ulster next season ahead of the arrival of Ian Madigan and Alby Mathewson this summer.

Cooney, who has made the Ulster scrum-half position his own on the back of some outstanding performances over the last couple of years, is expected to be away on international duty much more often next season, which prompted Ulster to recruit former All Blacks scrum-half Mathewson.

The hugely popular Kiwi made a big impact in his time with Munster, before he was forced to leave due to the IRFU wanting to promote Irish-qualified scrum-halves.

Ulster were on the other end of that scenario not too long ago when Ruan Pienaar had to pack his bags, despite wanting to stay in Belfast.

Mathewson (34) has been without a club since leaving Munster late last year, but he will link up with Ulster in the coming weeks.

"I’m looking forward to having him,” Cooney said.

"If we want to compete we’ve got to have as much strength and depth in every position.

"Luckily, I’ve got to learn off a lot of scrum-halves - Eoin Reddan, Isaac Boss when I was a Leinster quite young.

"It’s good to learn off other players and players who are slightly different to me and my approach, so I’m looking forward to picking his brain.

"I already follow him on Instagram because I know he’s in incredible shape and I want to see what he’s doing, so I can see what fitness or what gym he does.

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"He seems to be an incredible professional who when I played him for Munster (he) played unbelievable when we lost away and stuff, so he’s a good player and will add a lot of strength to our squad."

Cooney knows Madigan well from the Dublin duo's time with Leinster, and he is relishing the chance to link up with the out-half again.

Madigan has joined Ulster from Bristol, where he became frozen out of the first team this past season.

The 31-year old still has plenty to offer however, and Cooney believes Madigan and Mathewson will help Ulster build on the progress they have been making under Dan McFarland.

Madigan's arrival also means that Cooney may not be asked to slot in at out-half – something which he has happily done throughout his career.

"It's something I have been trying to do without any actual training," he explained.

"I think there was one game, I think it was La Rochelle, I just got thrown in.

"I had trained there, I think, for two days. I wouldn't mind if I was given three months to play 10, but it's hard when you haven't run and I forget where I am meant to go.

"Sometimes the 10 goes back to the edge and I'll forget that and start running into the ruck. I find it difficult to mix and match, so yeah, it will be nice not covering that. It's obviously good to have that option too.

"I know Mads very well from coming up through Leinster with him.

"I have spoken to him a good few times. He was very good to me during the Six Nations.

"He messaged me a good few times. Just encouraging me to keep going at it. I would know him very well. He would send me a lot of positive messages, so I am looking forward to playing with him again.

"Also, having Alby will be great.

"It's more strength in depth, if we want to be a team competing to win trophies. I understand that the more players we have in certain positions, the better it is for the team. It's good to have a couple of more players."

John Cooney was speaking in his role as an ambassador for Rugby Players Ireland's 'Tackle Your Feelings' campaign.


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