SCOTLAND head coach Gregor Townsend is considering calling up former Ireland scrum-half John Cooney during this year’s Six Nations.
Under World Rugby’s new eligibility law, a player can now switch allegiances after a three-year stand-down period and if they can demonstrate a credible link to their new nation of choice.
Scotland took advantage of that change to cap former Wallaby Jack Dempsey and have called up Ruaridh McConnochie, capped twice for England, for this tournament.
Cooney has won 11 caps for Ireland but last played for the land of his birth in the 24-12 defeat to England on February 23rd, 2020.
The Ulster No. 9 also has a Scottish father and several other family members based in this country, so meets both criteria.
Townsend has selected Glasgow Warriors pair George Horne and Ali Price, and Ben White of London Irish as his three scrum-halves for the tournament that begins with a trip to Twickenham to play England for the Calcutta Cup on February 4th.
Cooney wouldn’t be eligible for that match nor the home game against Wales a week later.
He could, however, be called up for the three remaining matches, starting with a trip to France on February 26, a home match against Ireland on March 12 and then the visit of Italy to Murrayfield on March 18.
And Townsend revealed utilising the 32 year-old is in his thoughts.
“I spoke to John when the rule change came about,” he said. “He actually reached out to me to let me know that it would be something that he would consider as a lot of his family live in Scotland.
“In terms of timelines he’s not available until later in the championship so it wasn’t something we considered for the beginning of the championship. But we’ll look at it when he’s available and whether we feel it’s right to bring him in in terms of his performances compared to the other No.9s that we have here.
“And also in terms of the speed that will be required for him to get up to speed with how we play. It will be challenging to have someone coming in [halfway through] a championship but it’s great to know that he was keen to be involved with us. And he could add to our depth at scrum-half.”
Scotland will prepare for their opener against England by heading to Spain next week for a warm-weather training camp.
“We went there three years ago when we went from Spain straight to Dublin and played really well that day,” Townsend explained. “What it gives you is an opportunity to train outside which we often don’t get at this time
“We’ve got a very good indoor training facility [at Oriam in Edinburgh] but not being able to train outside is a risk. This is the first time since then that we’ve been able to do it with the relaxation of Covid restrictions.
“We’ll fly straight from Spain to London. It gives us a really good focus, we’re together, training outdoors and we’ve got a big job to do when we get to London.”