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Chris Henry: Cooney's versatility a major asset in fight for World Cup spot


Ulster's John Cooney

Ulster's John Cooney

�INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ulster's John Cooney

Les Kiss on the wing and a video analyst at full-back... only at a World Cup.

International rugby is such a squad game now that there are usually two full sides in camp at any given time, but the demands that a 31-man limit at the tournament place on you put you in the unusual position of having to run training sessions with coaches as fill-ins.

Thirty-one players really isn't a great deal and with the Six Nations gone there'll be a number of players thinking nervously about what their chances are. With that size of squad, versatility is your best friend.

John Cooney, for example, is at a real advantage given his ability to play scrum-half and out-half. We may not ever need to see him at 10 during a game but just being able to run the lines at training is a real asset too...there might come a time when bodies are so thin on the ground that it's him or the kitman.

His would seem to be a sensible selection but it does concern me that I'm still not sure we know for sure which half-backs will be making the trip.

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are obviously in the untouchables group but can we say with any confidence who the back-ups are if either gets injured?

I'll always be convinced we could have won that quarter-final with Argentina in 2015 with a few more of our big players fit.

The identity of the third hooker is no clearer either with Rob Herring and Niall Scannell both vying for spots behind Rory Best and, I'd assume, Sean Cronin.

I certainly don't envy the coaches in making the call on my old position of the back-row either. Peter O'Mahony, Dan Leavy and CJ Stander are certainties. In the past, I'd have put Sean O'Brien in there, but the way it's gone for him he's probably in the group with Jack Conan, Jordi Murphy, Josh van der Flier and Rhys Ruddock.

Only two of that pool will make the initial trip, so good players will be left behind.

Belfast Telegraph