Ulster new boy Cooney: I can fill Pienaar's boots
New recruit John Cooney has assured Ulster supporters he is the man to replace departed legend Ruan Pienaar.
The Ireland scrum-half from Dublin, who won his first international cap this summer, has arrived at the Kingspan Stadium from Connacht to fill the void left by the Springbok's IRFU-enforced departure.
Rather than shy away from the shadow left by the province's greatest ever import, Cooney wants to face the challenge of taking up the mantle head on.
"It's a big deal with Ruan leaving, but I prefer coming in where a big player has been before because I love a challenge," said the confident 27-year-old. "I'd rather fill big boots than small ones.
"I remember hearing about it on the radio, that Ruan would have to leave and just thought straight away that there'd be an opportunity there with me being out of contract at the end of the year. I text my agent straight away thinking it would be great.
"It's a big challenge but that's what I'm here for."
Captain Andrew Trimble is equally confident that Cooney will succeed.
"There's been a lot of chat about Ruan, it's been talked to death over the summer," he said.
"And for good reason, he set the standard and raised it through the roof.
"There's four or five lads there and John will really throw his hat into the ring. It's exciting to see."
Les Kiss' men kick off their pre-season by hosting English club Wasps on Thursday night at Kingspan Stadium (7.30pm kick-off).