John Cooney should worry about getting in the Irish team before claiming goal-kicking responsibilities, according to Ronan O’Gara.
The former Ireland fly-half was on Off The Ball and likened Cooney to a French-style scrum-half who takes more responsibility than number 10s as they do in Ireland.
“While in Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland, I suppose the dominant halfback partner of the halfbacks is the 10 while in France ever since they’re very young, the dominant role is the nine.
“All the nines become goalkickers. Nearly every nine in France goal kicks. It’s part of the requirements for their CV for game time.
“So yeah he is [a French-style scrumhalf]. I was reading an article, he’s a very accomplished soccer player. So that obviously helps when it comes to kicking a ball.
“He has, I think, improved his technique and he doesn’t look like missing at the moment. That’s what he’s doing for Ulster.
However, if Cooney is to become the national team’s main goal kicker, the La Rochelle head coach felt that Johnny Sexton must no longer be in the picture.
“Will a nine get an opportunity to kick on the Irish team if Johnny Sexton is playing? No. If Joey Carbery is playing? Potentially. If Ross Byrne is playing? Probably not.
“I think it’s pretty plain sailing if Johnny Sexton is in the team he’ll be kicking. It won’t even come up for debate,” O’Gara commented.
'He's got to appreciate he's playing for Ireland'
While the Ulster scrum-half is in fine form for his province, the former Munster player noted that it is still a big step-up to international rugby.
“He’s got to appreciate he’s playing for Ireland. It’s a completely different step up and a completely different level.
“He’s going from having a whirlwind of a campaign with Ulster - in the pool stages also, don’t underestimate the step up from a quarter-final to a semi-final to a final. So in that regard, so far so good.
“He’s doing brilliantly in all areas of the game. For him, he probably needs to walk first in terms of getting on the Irish team and then if he can probably potentially start claiming the goal kicks.
“I would say if he was a 50-test experienced player playing for Ireland and he was coming in as a nine and Johnny was there and Johhny was obviously kicking - then it may affect John Cooney.
“But I don’t see in this situation how it would for him. He has to be focused on getting into the team,” O’Gara said.
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