John Cooney: Ulster scrum-half says he has more to give

John Cooney
John Cooney has scored three tries in his last three Ulster appearances
Champions Cup Pool Three: Ulster v Harlequins
Venue: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast Date: Saturday 7 December Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Sport website, app and BBC Sounds

Ulster scrum-half John Cooney has said he feels he can still improve despite being in impressive form ahead of a European Champions Cup double-header against Harlequins.

Cooney's superb solo try against Clermont Auvergne was decisive in a win which sent Ulster top of Pool Three.

"In some games I've kicked well but not passed as well, so I've high standards that I try and meet," said Cooney.

"I still think that I have a lot more to give and a lot more to improve."

Since joining Ulster in 2017, Cooney has become a fan favourite at the Kingspan Stadium and the 29-year-old admits he is loving life at the Kingspan Stadium.

"I do love it here and I have always said that if you apply yourself, work hard for a team and give what you can every week then the fans will take to you," said Cooney.

"For them to take to me has been amazing and it is a place that I really love.

"I've been enjoying this season and I feel fit and fresh," he added.

"I want to keep improving and I felt physically great coming back in the summer so I think that has helped me through these games.

"I always say that the things that I'm proudest about are when things weren't going well and it is about how you respond. That is a mantra that I always bring into games.

"I missed an easy kick against Bath and I knew if I responded poorly and missed another kick then we would lose, so I always say that is about winning the next moment."

We need to build momentum

Ulster will be well placed to make the knockout stages of the Champions Cup if they can take maximum points from the two games against Harlequins, and Cooney has called on his side to build momentum.

"It's the back-to-back games that are the big ones," added the former Connacht back.

"Last year we went away to Scarlets and put in a huge performance and then beat them at home as well, which really gave us a lot of momentum.

"If we can do the same then that will put us in a brilliant position.

John Cooney
Ulster twice beat Harlequins in the European Champions Cup in 2017

"We have good momentum now and it is important that we continue it and that we play with confidence."

Harlequins were tipped to struggle after being heavily beaten by Clermont in the opening game, however a gritty win over Bath means that they are far from stragglers in Pool Three.

"They had a big win against Bath at home and we played them two years ago, which was a really tight game," added Cooney.

"We know how difficult it is against them and it is important that we start well.

"We know that if we put them under a bit of pressure on them in this first game then it may be a bit different in the second one."

Ulster Cheetahs
Cooney says that Ulster's 63-26 defeat away to the Cheetahs was a turning point in their season

Ulster sit second in Conference A in the Pro14 and have had an impressive start to the season, and Cooney says that the defeat to the Cheetahs at the start of October was a turning point for Dan McFarland's side.

"We drew a line in the sand after that game," he added.

"I think we have been better in defence and attack since, so it is about getting a balance.

"Some games we have defended really well and some games we have attacked really well, so hopefully this weekend we can have a mix of both."

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