JACK DEMPSEY says he will make an announcement within the next three to four weeks about whether he is going to make himself available for Scotland selection leading into next year’s World Cup or stick to trying to rekindle his international career with Australia.
The 28-year-old back-rower was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, and has played in 14 full international matches for the Wallabies. However, a recent change in World Rugby’s international eligibility rules mean that a capped player can now switch allegiance to another country to which he/she has “a close and credible link via birthright”, so long as they undertake a three-year cooling off period. Dempsey has a Scottish grandfather and he has not played for Australia since their World Cup pool match victory over Georgia on 11th October 2019, meaning that he will become eligible to wear the thistle late next month should be choose to go that route.
This is not what the change of regulation was introduced to do. It was supposed to help redress an imbalance which sees poorer rugby nations continually lose playing talent to ‘super-hoover’ tier one sides. However, Scotland isn’t the only country prepared to take the view that the letter of the law trumps the spirit of the law when it comes to building as competitive a national team as possible, and head coach Gregor Townsend will not think twice about turning to Dempsey as he looks ahead at a killer 2023 World Cup pool which features world champions, South Africa, and World Rugby’s current number one ranked team, Ireland.
For his part, Dempsey has pointed out previously that he did not know about the rule change which came into effect at the start of this calendar year when he decided to move from the Waratahs to Glasgow Warriors in the summer of 2021, and he has consistently stressed that switching allegiance is a decision which should not be taken lightly. However, it is clear that he is tempted by the prospect of playing in consecutive World Cups for two different countries.
“From my own point of view, I addressed the summer as a big thinking, brainstorming operation,” said Dempsey. “I went back to my roots, my parents were over here, and I got to meet the Scottish side of my extended family. They are all very keen for me to be Scottish because they are as Scottish as you can get.
“But I was also keeping an eye on both [international team] camps. There was the [Scotland versus] Argentina series and then Australia have been playing recently [in the Rugby Championship]. Both teams have been playing promising rugby but in terms of my own situation I have pretty much made my mind up and I’m probably going to make an announcement in the next three or four weeks.
“I’ve had contact with both parties in some form,” he added. “Obviously, it’s easier here because of time zones and stuff. But, as I said, in the summer I made sure I dotted every I and crossed every T and sat down and really thought about everything, not only what was going to be best for my career but what was going to make me happy. And I think we’re nearing [the end of] that decision process now.”
Dempsey has spoken in the past about how passionate an Australian his father is, but he insisted that neither parent has put any pressure on him.
“He was over here in April and May for four weeks but unfortunately for him he watched the Edinburgh game we lost and then the Leinster quarter-final [when Warriors were hammered 76-14] so he wasn’t too impressed with what was going!” conceded Dempsey.
“At the end of the day, he has no Scottish blood in him and is very much the definition of a true-blue Aussie, as is my mum, to be fair. But I think they just want what’s best for me – they’ve seen the ups and downs of my career, been there with the injuries and the rehab – so we’ll see what happens.”
Dempsey was sporting a black eye when he met the press on Monday. “With the Ulster game getting canned we had a little internal trial, and it was a bit ‘puggier’ than usual,” he explained. “We were all pretty excited, having had the Worcester game cancelled too, so it got a bit heated out there but it’s all good signs.”
Despite their disrupted pre-season schedule, Dempsey said he is confident that Glasgow will be physically ready to hit the ground running in Friday night’s United Rugby Championship season opener away to Benetton.
“The S&C coaches went through some numbers today [Monday] comparing it to this time last year and we’ve literally doubled in terms of kilometres or miles run and also weights lifted,” he explained. “I’m pretty excited about playing for the Warriors again, with a new coach and everything like that. It’s good to have a fresh start.”