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“I’d rather fill big boots than small ones,” says confident Cooney

Daniel Barnes
15 August 2017

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John Cooney says that he is not scared of filling the considerable void left by Ruan Pienaar at Ulster.

The South African scrum-half was a fan favourite at the Kingspan Stadium before being forced to leave by the IRFU’s succession policy requiring an Irish-qualified scrum-half in Belfast.

But Cooney doesn’t feel any pressure in replacing a man who scored almost 1000 points for Ulster over seven years.

“It’s a big deal him leaving but I prefer coming in where a big player has been before because I love a challenge”, the 27-year-old said.

“It’s a big challenge but that’s what I’m here for. Playing time was the main thing. With Ruan leaving I thought I could get games here.”

Cooney revealed that thoughts immediately turned to his own career when news broke last August that Pienaar would depart at the end of 2016-17.

“I remember hearing about it on the radio, that he’d had to leave,” said Cooney.

“I just thought straight away that there’d be an opportunity there. I texted my agent saying it would be great for me.

“I was hoping Ulster would get on to me about it and a few weeks later, they did. It was all pretty straightforward.”

Cooney is desperate to make up for lost time after a lack of regular playing time at his previous club Connacht, where he was often forced to play second fiddle to Kieran Marmion.

“When I went to Connacht, Kieran was going well and I’d had three shoulder surgeries, which set me back.

“Since then, I’ve had seven or eight months injury-free and want to press on.

“Me and Kieran; the games were sometimes split between us but I want to start the big games.

“I don’t want to be starting one week and out the next.”

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