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Cooney and McCloskey are left out as Ireland look to the future with Larmour

By Jonathan Bradley

There was no place for Ulster's in-form John Cooney in Joe Schmidt's Six Nations squad announced yesterday.

The scrum-half has been one of the bright points of Ulster's season having arrived from Connacht ahead of the campaign.

While increasing his international prospects, as well as the search for regular game-time, was surely a motivating factor for his move north, Cooney has now missed out on both squads named since he made his Test bow in Japan last summer.

While his presence at Kingspan Stadium will be a boost to Ulster's hopes of putting together a run of Guinness PRO14 wins during the Six Nations, it will be a bitter pill to swallow for a player who has exceeded expectations throughout this season.

Speaking before his squad omission, Ulster's assistant coach, and former Lions scrum-half, Dwayne Peel praised the contribution Cooney has made.

"I think he is playing every week, which really helps him, and he's a player who wants to play every week," he said.

"I think he is getting better every week, his game management is getting better every week, you saw some nice kicks from him in the game, especially in the second half, to put some pressure on La Rochelle.

"He works hard and there is no secrets to that success really, working really hard off the pitch and on the training pitch," he added.

Cooney wasn't the only Ulster player dealing with disappointment yesterday. Stuart McCloskey, having won his second cap two and a half years on from his debut against Fiji back in November, was another to miss out on the 36-man panel, while Kieran Treadwell didn't make the cut either.

In all, there were just four Ulstermen in the squad.

Captain Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale will hardly have been sweating on their inclusions, while Rob Herring has kept his place after coming back into the fold during the autumn.

Chris Farrell, born in Fivemiletown but currently of Munster, is also in.

Away from the northern province, the headline from the squad announcement was the inclusion of Leinster's rising star Jordan Larmour.

Only 20-years-old, the back three player is the youngest member of the squad, and the only yet to win a cap, but has been included off the back of a stunning festive season.

Providing try-of-the-season contenders against both Munster and Ulster in recent inter-pros, the St Mary's man is expected to be a fixture in the squad for years to come.

Ireland open their Six Nations campaign against France in Paris on Saturday, February 3.

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