Reports today suggest that Ulster and Ireland scrum-half John Cooney could be selected by Scotland for next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Despite being one of the most consistent players in the country over the last few years, John Cooney has only won 11 caps for Ireland, with the last of those coming in February 2020 against England.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Cooney was arguably the in-form player in Ireland, and was tipped to take the place of Conor Murray. However, a drop in form and emergence of player in the scrum-half position has seen him fall behind the like of Murray, Jamison Gibson-Park and Craig Casey.
With chances of another Ireland call-up appearing unlikely, a report in this morning's Daily Mail by Rory Keane suggests he could line out for Scotland, who are in Ireland’s group in next year’s tournament.
#OnThisDay in 2019 one of the sharpest shooters in the business held his nerve in the dying moments of the game 👌
John Cooney lands the penalty to give @UlsterRugby the win over Quins in front of a jubilant Kingspan 🙌#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/CaetlIiLRG
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 7, 2020
John Cooney’s father is from Scotland, and under World Rugby guidelines, he would be eligible for Scotland as he would not have played for Ireland in over three years.
At 32 years old, this would be John Cooney’s last chance of an appearance at a World Cup, having missed out on selection in 2019.
Since joining Ulster in 2017, John Cooney has scored over 800 points for the province, but has never been a major part of the international set up under Joe Schmidt or Andy Farrell.
John Cooney’s accuracy from the kicking tee and experience would make him a valuable asset for any team to have. In Scotland, he would have to contest against the like of Ali Price and George Horne for a place in the twenty-three
This would not be a first in the rugby world for a player to switch to a different national side since the introduction of this rule.
Munster centre Malakai Fekitoa and former Ulster full-back Charles Piutau now line out for Tonga under the rule from World Rugby, despite previous experience with the All Blacks.