Deals for John Cooney and Will Addison as Ulster confirm Sean Reffell capture

John Cooney has penned a new contract extension with Ulster - ending months of speculation that the Irish scrum half was set to leave the Kingspan Stadium for pastures new.

Friday, 31st December 2021, 7:24 pm

The Dubliner joined Ulster from Connacht on an initial two-year deal as a replacement for Springbok World Cup-winning pivot Ruan Pienaar.

Cooney was an instant hit in his first season in Belfast, amassing 175 in the Pro14 to be the competition’s leading scorer plus was also selected on the tournament’s Dream Team.

He also scooped the Ulster Player of the Year, the Supporters’ Club Player of the Year and the Rugby Writers’ Player of the Year honours in his debut season.

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Ulster's John Cooney. Pic by Getty.

Cooney again made the Pro14 Team of the Tournament in 2019 as Ulster reached the last four.

The scrum half’s 157 points in 2020 was one of the catalysts for Ulster reaching the final and he again made the Pro14 Dream Team.

Cooney was the league’s top scorer last season with 115 points and, remarkably, made the Pro14 Dream Team for a fourth consecutive season.

Cooney, who was eligible to play for Scotland as his father was born in Glasgow, won his first Ireland cap on the 2017 summer tour of Japan and has played 11 times for his country.

However, as well as the highs there have been lows for Cooney.

Speculation concerning Cooney’s future with Ulster first circulated when he was dropped for the 2020 Pro14 final at the Aviva Stadium when Abe Mathewson got the nod at scrum half in the 27-5 defeat to Leinster.

Cooney has been in the international wilderness since the Six Nations of 2020 when he was on the bench for Ireland’s defeat against England at Twickenham.

Cooney has seen the likes of Jamison Gibson-Park and Craig Casey pass him in the international pecking order.

Cooney’s contract was due to expire with Ulster this summer and it was thought, with little prospect of returning to Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad, the 31-year-old would head to France for one last lucrative pay day.

Although he has signed a deal at Kingspan Stadium, Ulster have put no timeframe on the contract.

Fellow Irish international back Will Addison has also signed a contract extension with the province.

Addison has been plagued by injury since joining Ulster from Sale in 2018, only playing 16 games in the last three seasons.

Ulster coach Dan McFarland is delighted the Irish duo are staying at Ulster.

“John is a valued member of our squad, who continues to play a central role in the team, both on and off the field, it is great that he has bought into our ambitions for the future and his experience and skills will play an important role in helping us to achieve those,” said McFarland. “I am also delighted that Will is remaining with us and I look forward to seeing him back out on the field soon.

“Will has been extremely unlucky with injury recently...but with his play-making abilities and versatility, he is set to continue to make an impact for Ulster in the time ahead.”

Like Cooney’s deal, Ulster have not disclosed the length of Addison’s new contract.

Despite already fierce competition for places in the backrow, Ulster have signed 23-year-old Irish-qualified openside flanker Sean Reffell from Premiership club Saracens.

“We are looking forward to welcoming Sean to the province next summer, with an already impressive track-record for Saracens he will be a great fit alongside some real quality in our back row,” said McFarland. “And I am confident he will be a valuable addition to our squad.”

Meanwhile, prop Gareth Milasinovich has gone the other way and joined Saracens on a short-term contract.

The prop is on the bench for Mark McCall’s side in tomorrow’s Premiership clash with Northampton Saints.

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