Regulation change could offer Jack Dempsey a route back into international rugby

Glasgow Warriors No8 has 14 caps for Australia but could become eligible to play for Scotland next year

Jack Dempsey has been a top performer since joining Glasgow Warriors at the start of this season. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Jack Dempsey has been a top performer since joining Glasgow Warriors at the start of this season. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

JACK DEMPSEY spoke to the press on Monday about enjoying life on the other side of the fence as a punter watching Scotland take-on and defeat Australia at Murrayfield earlier this month, and revealed that he found himself torn between supporting several of his new Glasgow Warriors team-mates in the home line-up, or getting behind his birth country who he represented 14 times before heading north to join Glasgow Warriors during the last close-season.

“I had a couple of Guinness and watching the game as a fan was great,” he said. “It was the first Test I’d ever been to where I wasn’t playing in it. I never went as a kid, I just watched them all on TV. It was great going in on the tram all the way through to Murrayfield which you wouldn’t really get to experience back where I’m from.

“I ran in to a few ex-Wallabies who are now playing in London in the Premiership so it was good to see how everyone just congregates for an event like that. Rugby is pretty special for things like that.


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“I’ve got a foot in both camps now,” he added. “I know a lot of the players with Scotland and I’m contributing to that culture so there was a part of me thinking it was great to see Matt Fagerson running out there in the No 8 jersey. I wanted him to go well whereas in the past I wouldn’t. So I had mixed emotions on the day, definitely.”

The 27-year-old was speaking from the perspective of a player who has accepted that his decision to leave Australia in search of new rugby experiences in the northern hemisphere has dropped him off the Wallaby radar. There is nothing in statute to stop him being called-up by Dave Rennie whilst based in Glasgow, but current Rugby Australia policy on selecting overseas players [the controversial ‘‘Giteau’s Law’] means that it is highly unlikely.

Then, two days after Dempsey had spoken about watching that Scotland versus Australia game, things took a dramatic turn. World Rugby – the global governing body – announced an alteration in their regulations on international player eligibility, opening the door to the prospect of Dempsey now adding to his cap tally as early as next Autumn … playing for Scotland.

As of 1st January 2022, capped players will be allowed to transfer allegiance to a new country, so long as they have completed a three-year international stand-down period and have “a close and credible link via birthright” to the country they are switching to. In practice, this means that the player, a parent or a grandparent must have been born in the nation they are seeking to represent.

Dempsey’s grandfather was from Glasgow and he last played for Australia in October 2019, meaning he could be in the frame to play for Scotland next Autumn. It might not be what the regulation change was designed to achieve, but it wouldn’t be the first time Scottish Rugby has sought to take advantage of rugby’s eligibility laws to plug gaps in the national team line-up.

Whether or not this is a route the 27-year-old wants to go down remains to be seen, and even then it would have to be sanctioned by World Rugby’s Regulation Committee.

 

In the meantime, all he can do is focus on his club responsibilities, with Warriors’ facing a tricky assignment away to Benetton this weekend, in their return to action following a five-week break for the Autumn Test Series.

“It’s a bit different to where I’m from and what I’m used to,” reflected Dempsey. “Normally once the season starts it rolls on and you have the league and then when that finishes the international season.

“But when you have such a long season you want to take whatever break you can and use it well. It was a time for us to grow more depth in the squad as we lost a lot of our leaders and voices to international duty. So you need to find new voices in that time and we had guys like Stafford McDowall stepping up and being a real leader, one of those guys you thought might not be like that.”

On a personal level, Dempsey insisted that there is room for improvement in his own performances, but added that he is enjoying the challenge of adapting to a new rugby environment.

“We reviewed the first block extensively and there are a lot of things I need to work on personally,” he said. “From the moment I came in the door it was about making sure I was putting my best foot forward and showing what I could do. If the weather gets worse we might have to play a tighter game, a heavy set-piece game, and that was one of the big reasons I moved here, to work on that.”

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About David Barnes 2991 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he 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.

13 Comments

  1. Perhaps the irb could remind the SRU that Scottish rugby players aged 14-43 are also eligible for us too …we are fast reaching point where it’s easier to access an sru contract by not actually being from Scotland….if only wee nic would allow/ enforce state schools to start pumping kids full of roids…..

  2. As pointed out earlier by Sensisball and David Blair Dempsey would be a welcome potential addition to the Scottish squad and privately de a better option at No 8 than seems currently available. No doubt international players who have not played for 3 years will be closely looked at come 1 January 2022. Indeed the search for such players who would be open to switching allegiance has probably begun. Other than No 8 Scotland could do with a tight head to challenge Fagerson now that Nel is fading. It will be interesting to see how this change is used. The days of “capturing” a player by capping him may be over. So a player who is qualified to play for two countries might play at one World Cup for say England and the next for Scotland !

  3. Have to say Dempsey at 28 would be a great addition to Scotland’s back row resources. We have been crying out for a ball carrying 8 and he is certainly a better option than anyone currently in the squad.

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  4. If Dempsey wants to play for Scotland I can’t imagine how the World Rugby Regulations Committee could fail to sanction it given he clearly does meet the criteria. World Rugby would be putting itself in a very sticky situation if it laid out criteria and then applied them in a discriminatory and arbitrary way.

    The new regulations are meant to allow dual qualified players to change national allegiance and uphold the integrity of the game. World Rugby have clearly taken the view that it would be discriminatory and undermine the integrity of the game if the new eligibility regulations did not apply equally to all players. I’m not sure I favour these changes but it would be completely untenable to apply them to only players wanting to become qualified for tier 2 sides as some have advocated.

    Should Scotland ‘take advantage’ of these new criteria? Yes, obviously they should choose the best squad from their whole pool of eligible players. I really doubt there will be more than one or two players who will be considered for the squad though – most players good enough to compete for a squad place will still be winning caps for their first country (eg. Gregory Aldritt) or will be old and beyond their best.

    Jack Dempsey is an exception because of Australia’s self-harming selection policies. Ruaridh McConnachie might be good enough to get a fringe place in the squad but wouldn’t trouble the match day squad.

    I think this change will have limited impact on the composition of the Scottish squad.

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    • I think it’s a myth that Greg Alldritt is SQ. His dad lived here, his brother plays here and the country is special to the Alldritt family, but from what I’ve heard Greg himself wouldn’t qualify through birth, parentage or grandparents.

      Likewise someone’s got a bit over-excited with an edit on Zach Mercer’s Wikipedia page. The rule change doesn’t cover residency qualification.

      We could do with more options at 8 and it’s good that Dempsey chose to move here without prospect of furthering his test career. Mostly though this is great news for the Pacific Islands (less so for those who get to play them at the next World Cup!)

      • There’s a TOL article you can find from 2 years ago that sets out their connection. Their grandparents on their fathers side are Scottish. Their father is Scottish but grew up in Kenya before attending boarding school in SA. The article quotes Gregory’s brother who still lives in Scotland and plays for Stew Mel.

        So, not a myth.

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      • its a myth
        Aldritt’s grandfather came to live in Scotland but was born in Dublin.

        And believe it or not, all that was checked out before he was capped by France – by Townsend

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      • FF – the article I can find says his grandparents lived here. That alone wouldn’t qualify him according to WR criteria. If they were born here then obviously that would. I’m 100% not denying the Aldritt clan have a meaningful connection to Scotland. But someone (Andrew Cotter?) did say in commentary that GA himself was never SQ. All goes to show the difficulties of assigning objective nationality criteria in an age of global interconnectedness.

      • FF – the article I can find says his grandparents lived here. That alone wouldn’t qualify him according to WR criteria. If they were born here then obviously that would. I’m 100% not denying the Aldritt clan have a meaningful connection to Scotland. But someone (Andrew Cotter?) did say in commentary that GA himself was never SQ. All goes to show the difficulties of assigning objective nationality criteria in an age of global interconnectedness.

      • Fair enough. Oh for a delete function.

        The original point I was trying to make is that I think this change will make only a very marginal difference to Scotland. Dual qualified players we might really covet are generally going to be enjoying their test careers anyway and I don’t think we’ll be in the market for over the hill ABs like Tonga and Samoa seem to be.

      • I found out via Twitter yesterday that John Cooney is SQ too but he’s nearing the end of his career so I don’t think it’s likely we’ll poach him.

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