Jack Dempsey close to decision on potential Scotland switch

14-times capped Wallaby spent the summer weighing up his options

Jack Dempsey spent the summer connecting with his Scottish roots. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Jack Dempsey spent the summer connecting with his Scottish roots. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

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.

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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.”

Benetton v Glasgow Warriors: Sione Tuipulotu has a score to settle in URC season opener

About David Barnes 3959 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Perhaps rather than the player considering swapping Gold for Blue, perhaps Mr. Barnes can look into the plans if any for the SQ Worcester players that will be available particularly VDM before he drifts over to Paris.

  2. Not required thanks. we already have one token Aussie n08 who i think is pretty good in the dark blue (if a little under used) so we dont need another one and certainly not at the expense of a couple of very promising scottish lads

  3. I take your point FF and I’m sure it is sometimes true but I know a lot of non-sports people with dual identities and almost without exception they identify with one particular country whilst having feelings for the other(s). They know what “their” country is and it shouldn’t be any different in sport in my opinion.

  4. Getting a bit tired of Dempsey deciding whether he will play for Scotland or not. If it’s really such a struggle for him then I’d rather he just didn’t. Th jersey is too precious for that – and with Scottish lads like Fagerson and Muncaster with bright futures ahead of them he might not even get picked.

  5. This rule makes rugby even more of a laughing stock when it comes to international eligibility. You should only be able to represent a country if you born there, or had parents and/or grandparents from that country. If you moved somewhere when young and were educated in that country, I’d accept that.

    But this is allowing players to switch from one country to another at the drop of a hat, and that doesn’t sit right. If you’ve declared for one country and are capped then that should be it. No player has a divine right to an international career and if they no longer get picked then thats tough.

  6. I may be old fashioned (some might suggest I am just old) but I still see entitlement to wear a country’s colours as stemming from where you were born. End of!

    • John Barclay was born in Hong Kong
      David Sole was born in Ayelsbury
      Rob Harley was borne in Crewe

      I could go on with a long list

    • I am not sure this logic translates well to the modern world, although I appreciate your underlying point that credible connection to the country is required. Nowadays movement across the globe is easy and families may not necessary live in the country of birth. For example, I was born in Edinburgh I have married my wife who was born in Hong Kong to South African and Irish parents, our children were born in Georgia and we now live in India and will likely live in 2 or 3 more countries over the coming years. By your reasoning my children would represent Georgia, a country, that although fondly in our hearts, they have no connection with.

      Such a simple approach in my opinion doesn’t work, however I do agree that there must be a strong credible connections with the country you want to represent.

    • Whilst agreeing with your sentiment Bryce I would change your criteria. In most cases I would suggest people know which is their country, the country with which they identify. It might be because they were born there but it could equally be where they were brought up or where their parents are from. So to me for international rugby to mean anything players should represent “their” country (as long as they have some link) and that should be it. They shouldn’t go and play for someone else’s country when their country doesn’t want them.

      • I think the point is many people have more than one ‘their’ countries. I think that is fair, you clearly can feel a bit Scottish and a bit Irish for example. Dual identity is a v common thing.

        I’m not sure that matters for international sport but it is the logic behind the eligibility criteria change which cites ‘meaningful connections’.

    • I hear what you guys are saying & there’s a wee bit of me wants to agree: after all my Aussie son in law played for the Scotland ClubXV & I was proud as punch.
      We can’t keep drawing a line in the sand, watch the incoming tide obliterate it, & draw another line further up the beach with each successive tide.
      The other side of this coin is the patronising offers to South Sea Islanders to play in & for NZ & then, when you’re past it, you can play again for the land of your birth.
      I was born in Scotland & went with my parents to live in Belfast for 3 years & then came back to Scotland.
      Did that render me dual qualified?
      I accept the argument in favour of parents’ nationality but grandparents???
      We don’t need lines in the sand. We need robust sea defences.

      • Very very few Pacific Islanders are born on the islands and move as adults to NZ to play rugby.

        A small number come on school scholarships and become ABs.

        But by far and away the most common situation is NZ born players have PI heritage and want to play for a PI team after they’ve been capped as an AB or after their AB ambitions are extinguished. Also many arrive as children and represent the national that raised them.

        The changes in EC were simply a way to make two more countries competitive by filling Tonga and Samoa with NZers and Australians who’d already been capped by their preferred countries. It is really very rare for a PI player to be poached and then want to return to his home nation. This narrative is basically junk.

        • But that’s a narrative that you are thrusting onto this article, which actually states that the purpose of the rule change is to redress the imbalance created by certain tier one nations profiting [over several decades] at the expense of certain tier two nations. I won’t use the term ‘super hoover’ as that is a distraction. But I don’t believe anyone who has been paying any attention will argue that we have had equality of opportunity in the international game for a long, long time?

          This law wasn’t created to fix all of international rugby’s ills in eight and a half months. Rather, by providing this assistance to these ‘tier two’ nations, the hope is that they are able to become more consistent and therefore successful, which boosts their revenue generating power, which can then be invested in creating credible development structures to run from the cradle all the way through to the international game – not to mention providing players who currently feel they have no choice but to pursue their rugby fame and fortunes in a tier one country an opportunity to follow their heart. That is maybe fanciful, but – in my opinion – it beats a ‘let them eat cake’ attitude.

          I’d be very disappointed if the law was created to help monied tier one nations with failing development programmes to pick up already capped but no longer required players from other tier one nations.

          For what its worth, I don’t have a massive issue with Jack Dempsey, Gregor Townsend or Scottish Rugby taking advantage of the laws as they are. But that doesn’t mean I think its right.

  7. “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“.

    This is such a weird explanation of the intent of the regulation. Almost all the players who have changed national allegiance are NZs or Australians who were capped by the nations of their birth and have switched to countries they have heritage qualification for. This isn’t an aberration it is exactly what was expected – packing Tonga and Samoa with extra-ABs.

    Describing Australia and NZ as ‘super-hoover’ sides for selecting players born or raised in their country is just a bit odd.

    Which country genuinely attracts large numbers of tier 2 players to represent them under residency rules? Well that would be Japan.

    • Except I didn’t describe Australia and NZ as ‘super-hoover’ sides for selecting players born and raised in their country. In fact, Australia and NZ are not mentioned at all in that paragraph – although I would say they have been guilty of the things I am referring to.

      • If Mr. Dempsey gets on a Qantas flight it will only be to see his family on the basis of having just watched the Australia v NZ 37-39 game.

      • No but virtually all the players who are switching eligibility are in fact Australian or from New Zealand. This isn’t an accidental side effect – those campaigning for the rule change like Dan Leo or Charles Piatau are themselves New Zealanders with island ancestry, not islanders poached by foreign countries.

        So which nations are ‘super-hoovers’ of Island talent if not the nations that actually produce those players who are switching?

        England capped Nathan Hughes and Roko, France have capped a few, mostly years ago. Is that really it? This narrative is seriously shaky.

        The fact is Samoa produce virtually no homegrown professional players anymore. Tongan-born players representing other nations are vanishingly rare (Fakatava is one) outside of Japan or lower tiers. Fiji is the greatest exporter but didn’t support the rule and will hardly benefit from it because they actually develop lots of home grown players, whilst they export predominantly wingers to other nations and there’s only so many they can fit in their own squad.

      • It’s a very good job you didn’t David! Can you imagine the outcry if people started to suggest the likes of Moeen Ali or Adil Rasheed shouldn’t be selected for England based on their Asian heritage despite the fact they were born and brought up in England? Yet that is exactly what so many say about rugby players born and brought up in Australia and New Zealand with south sea island heritage.

        There is a name for that type of thinking of course.

  8. The fact he’s not saying anything for another month tells me he’s going to switch because, if he was going to stick with Australia he would have said so now seeing as he could still get in the Bledisloe team! If I’m right then I’m over the moon because this lad is a top, top player:D.

    • Probably right. If he was sticking with Oz no need to wait until he is edible for Scotland.

      Not sure he’ll waltz into Scotland side though – Fagerson, Bradbury and Muncaster are all fine players and I think Fagerson has made the shirt his own finally.

      • imo he’s the best 8 at Glasgow, but even if he didn’t just walk in to the National team, he’s certainly no drop in quality from the guys you’ve mentioned. That can’t be a bad thing.

  9. This would be wrong on so many levels! We already have too many foreigners preventing our home grown talent from representing their country of birth! Disagree all you want but I’d rather support a Scottish team of homegrown players win or lose!

    • Interesting comment that raises more questions than it answers. Who is a foreigner? What counts as home grown? What counts as Scottish enough to represent Scotland?

      I don’t think the balance at present is necessarily right but I’d infer from this comment you think only players born and raised in Scotland should represent Scotland. That just doesn’t reflect nationhood or nationality in the real world and is well out of step with modern society.

      On the other hand Dempsey has made clear his emotional connection to Scotland is tenuous so I’m not really comfortable with him representing Scotland. Hamish Watson also qualifies via grandparents but I don’t see any issue with that. Not sure eligibility criteria can be anything other than a crude effort to capture the messy reality of people’s lived and identities.

      • It’s best not to muddy the water by offering up the question of qualification, familial qualification is fine, certainly better than residency in my opinion, however swapping clubs is one thing, swapping National teams just makes World Rugby’s stance on qualification even more ludicrous.
        Secondly has he been resident for a sufficient period to qualify on the new residency rules, I don’t think so, and last but not least it isn’t as if we are short of players in that position.
        With that thought in mind what message does it give out to the grass roots clubs or for that matter Edinburgh or Glasgow squads, work your backside off to get the Jersey, but keep to mind if some one who has been dropped from his National team decides to jump ship from a Southern Hemisphere side, tough.

  10. Sorry, I think this is wrong on so many levels, and as regards Mr. Townsend if he thinks a rejected Australian will make a difference in the World Cup group we are, in he is delusional.
    Deluded or not what signal does it give, apart from anything else it is just wrong, and I think the original intention that was alluded to in the article from World Rugby was also wrong.
    I know everybody else does it, I know France ship in Academy players from Polynesia, I don’t care about that.
    World Rugby have over the past decades changed a great sport into a failing professional business, not only that they have changed laws without considering the consequences of those changes and subsequently find themselves on the fringe of legal proceedings: all because some individuals thought, ‘hang on we could make some money’.
    Again sorry, I said back then ‘be careful what you wish for’ and it gives me no pleasure to suggest that my concern was well founded.
    No doubt some will say I’m living in he past but, at least I enjoyed the game as was, Saturday morning games pre Internationals, a great day with the opposition – win or loose and friendships that survive to this day, and memories, down in Wales after a hammering from our Celtic cousins and as a guest of Glamorgan Wanderers Coach [thanks Steve] they insisted I was in their Jug and I wasn’t allowed to put my hand in my pocket all night, you don’t forget memories like that.
    And then I remember Anayi wants ‘exhibition’ games in Qatarrrrghhh!


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