Rugby-Scotland open to Irish scrumhalf Cooney joining Six Nations squad

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - England v Ireland - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - February 23, 2020 Ireland's John Cooney after the match REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

LONDON (Reuters) - Scotland will consider bringing former Ireland scrumhalf John Cooney into their Six Nations squad when he becomes eligible next month, coach Gregor Townsend said at the official championship launch on Monday.

Dublin-born Cooney, 32, has 11 caps for Ireland but last played, as a replacement in the Six Nations, in 2020 and has a Scottish-born father which makes him eligible to switch allegiances from Feb. 23.

The Ulster player said in January that his father would be "immensely proud" if he were capped for Scotland.

World Rugby’s rules allow a capped player to switch allegiance after a three-year cooling off period as long as they meet eligibility requirements.

"I spoke to John when the rule change came about," Townsend told reporters.

"He actually reached out to me just to let me know it would be something that he'd consider. A lot of his family live in Scotland.

"In terms of timelines, he's not available until later on in the championship so obviously it wasn't something we considered for the beginning.

"We'll look when he's available and whether we feel it's right to bring him in in terms of his performances compared to the nines we have here ... (and) what it will require of him getting up to speed with how we play.

"It will be challenging for someone coming into a championship but it's great to know that he was keen to be involved with us and adds to our depth at scrum-half."

Only half of Scotland's 40-man squad came through the domestic system and the list includes London-born wing Ruaridh McConnochie, who played for England at the 2019 World Cup.

Former Australia back row Jack Dempsey is another player who made the switch to Scotland last year after qualifying through his grandfather.

McConnochie can become the first player to represent England and Scotland in the modern era and has defended the rule allowing players to switch sides.

"Your career is short. Why shouldn't you go for the most you can?," he said after being named in the squad. "My dad is a very proud Scot. He has supported Scotland all his life and played or had a trial with Scottish Schoolboys."

Scotland finished fourth in the 2022 tournament and Townsend felt they had improved a lot since then but would need to show it in a standalone tournament that had never been at such a high level.

Townsend's men start their campaign against England at Twickenham on Feb. 4.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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