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.
“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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