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John Cooney's mental resilience is an inspiration to all of us ahead of Toulouse clash, says Ulster skipper

Skipper insists scrum-half will bite back in Europe after PRO14 final axe

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John Cooney

John Cooney

�INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

High flyer: Iain Henderson prepares for European quarter-final action

High flyer: Iain Henderson prepares for European quarter-final action

John Cooney

Ulster skipper Iain Henderson has tipped the side's star scrum-half John Cooney to bounce back against Toulouse in tomorrow's Champions Cup quarter-final.

The Irish international was a shock omission from the starting side that lost the Guinness PRO14 final to Leinster last weekend thanks to some indifferent form after lockdown but has been restored to his usual No.9 jersey for the trip to the Stade Ernest-Wallon.

And Henderson has praised Cooney's reaction to the decision and pointed to how in the past the 30-year-old put setbacks behind him to become a nominee for this season's European Player of the Year.

"If he hasn't let you know, (Cooney) reads a lot of books and listens to a lot of podcasts on mental resilience and making sure you stay on top of your own mental performance," said Henderson. "He knows exactly what to do.

"Cooney has been in and out of squads, he's been dropped, he's switched teams and thankfully I think we've got the best version of John Cooney there's ever been.

"He didn't drop that in training last week even though he knew he was on the bench, and he knew that from the start of the week, his mentality was still the same.

"He was still out doing his kicks after training. He could easily have sacked that off and said he was feeling a bit down that day, but he still went through his week's work the way he usually would. It was great to see, and it gave a lot of guys encouragement.

"There were times in years gone by when players were dropped and you would have put a line through their names in training because they barely would have showed up. But the positive reaction we get off guys after something negative is brilliant."

 

While Cooney is back in the starting side, Marcell Coetzee misses out on the key clash through injury.

The Springbok back-rower was removed from the action after just 48 minutes of the PRO14 final and has not been able to go again for what would have been a fifth start on the spin.

In the absence of their talismanic No.8, Nick Timoney comes into the side with the other changes from last week seeing Jack McGrath and Jordi Murphy also restored.

Belfast Telegraph