Ulster star John Cooney says his contract status is not a distraction as he makes his return from a hamstring injury against his old side Leinster in Dublin tonight.
The three-season extension that the influential scrum-half signed in September 2018 runs out at the end of this campaign and it is believed that there is plenty of interest from abroad in the 31-year-old.
“It has never been one of my worries or issues,” said Cooney, who joined Ulster from Connacht in the summer of 2017 to replace the departing Ruan Pienaar. “Looking back on my career, I played in Connacht for three years and every year I kept signing one-year contracts.
“I feel it brought out the best in me. When your back was against the wall you had to perform and I enjoyed that.
“It is not something that I really worry about. If anything, it kicks me on to perform better and better. I’m not putting too much energy into that. My whole goal for these four or five months was to get back fit and play well.”
Cooney has played just 31 minutes for Ulster since April thanks to a string of injuries. A blow to the head against Leicester led to a neck problem that saw him miss the end of last season and, on his return in September, he shipped the hamstring strain.
“In a weird way, I saw the positives because it gave me two more months to get it right,” he said of the more recent injury. “Things that I couldn’t do the week of the Glasgow game I can do now really well.
“I think everything feels physically a lot better than what it did and it has given me the seven months that I needed.”