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'Dad doesn't want me to bloody play for Scotland!' - But Ex-Wallaby completes switch, Finn Russell snubbed

19th October, 2022
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19th October, 2022
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His dad may not be too happy – but former Wallabies’ flanker Jack Dempsey has switched rugby nations and is now in line to make his Test debut for Scotland against Australia.

“I know my dad doesn’t want me to bloody play for Scotland!” the 14-times capped Wallabies’ flanker had laughed earlier this year – but the tough back rower has decided to take the plunge anyway with the Scots under new international eligibility rules.

Dempsey’s grandfather on his mum’s side emigrated to Australia from Scotland, and the 28-year-old, who’s not played for the Wallabies since the 2019 World Cup, had been wrestling for a while with the idea of swapping allegiances.

But the former Waratahs’ forward’s decision was only revealed on Wednesday when Dempsey was named in the Scotland squad for the autumn internationals, the first of which will be against Australia on October 29.

It means he could line up for his debut against his old team in the same fixture which he watched last year from the Murrayfield stands with a pint of Guinness in his hands. 

The Glasgow Warriors No.8, who moved to play in Scotland last year, last played for Australia on October 11, 2019 against Georgia in a World Cup group game.

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So because he’s spent three years out of the international game, he’ll have served the necessary stand-down period stipulated in new World Rugby regulations and can transfer national allegiance because of a “a close and credible link via birthright” to the country to which he’s switching.

During the summer, Dempsey spoke to his family, and both Scottish and Australian rugby officials, about his future.

“I addressed the summer as a big thinking, brainstorming operation. I went back to my roots, my parents were over here, and I got to meet my extended family, the Scottish side,” Dempsey explained in an interview with the Scotsman in May.

“But I was also keeping an eye on both camps. There was the Argentina series and then Australia have been playing recently.

“Both teams have been playing promising rugby but in terms of my own situation I have pretty much made my mind up.”

Last year, when Gregor Townsend’s Scotland beat the Wallabies 15-13, Sydneysider Dempsey, who was named after the great American world heavyweight boxing champ, was an interested spectator.

“I went to the game and watched it live – sitting in the crowd having a few Guinnesses – and that was the first game I’d been to at Murrayfield when I wasn’t part of the squad,” explained Dempsey.

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“My mum is obviously the one who’s on the Scottish side, so I’ll pick her brain about a few different things and what she’s thinking, because I know my dad doesn’t want me to bloody play for Scotland!” 

His form for the Warriors has been so impressive, he had been on the radar of Townsend for a while as the coach rings the changes for a potential new era for the Scots.

“Jack became available with the law change, he has played Test rugby before,” said Townsend.

“He has been outstanding for Glasgow ever since he arrived at Scotstoun and he has started this season in very good form. With him committing to us, it provides real competition to the back row. His way of playing fits in with how we want our team to play and our forwards in particular.”

Racing 92 flyhalf Finn Russell was left out of the squad for the year-end Tests, while Jamie Ritchie takes over the captaincy.

Russell was rested for Scotland’s tour of Argentina in July alongside several other players who had featured on the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa the previous year.

But Russell’s hopes of a recall were dashed as he was absent from the squad announced by Scotland coach Gregor Townsend on Wednesday ahead of games against Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Argentina in Edinburgh.

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Russell was dropped for Blair Kinghorn in Scotland’s final Six Nations match in March after it emerged he was one of six players to have breached team protocol by going out drinking in Edinburgh after returning from their win in Italy the previous weekend.

Scotland's Finn Russell celebrates at Full Time during a Guinness Six Nations match between Scotland and England at BT Murrayfield, on February 05, 2022, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

(Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Then-skipper Stuart Hogg was among the group, all of whom have been selected for this squad with the exception of Russell and Sam Johnson, who suffered a broken jaw while playing for Glasgow at the weekend.

Hogg was also left out of the South America tour and has been replaced as captain by Ritchie, 28, who missed the Test series against Argentina through injury.

Townsend had said while naming his touring squad for South America that the breach of discipline after the Italy game had no bearing on his selection and the issue had been ironed out.

Russell had previously fallen out with Townsend following a similar breach of protocol ahead of the 2020 Six Nations, although the pair had repaired their relationship.

However, Townsend was adamant those issues played no part in his decision to snub Russell and replace Hogg as captain.

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“It’s really to reward form and consistency,” he said. “For someone like Finn Russell, who has missed out on the squad and has played a lot of games for us in the past, it’s a challenge for him to show his form and consistency over the next few weeks.

“We have grown leadership over the past few years. Stuart has done a very good job as captain. We see this decision as bringing the best out in Stuart.

“As you can imagine, he cares so much about playing for Scotland and leading Scotland, he was disappointed. But he has got behind the team, got behind Jamie.”

Edinburgh’s Kinghorn, Adam Hastings of Gloucester and Glasgow’s Ross Thompson will battle for Russell’s No.10 role.

Scotland opens their year-end Tests campaign on October 29 against Australia, whom they beat 15-13 in Edinburgh last year.

The series will finish with a match against Argentina, with Scotland keen to avenge their 1-2 series loss in July.

Scotland squad
Forwards: Ewan Ashman (Sale), Josh Bayliss (Bath), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow), Dave Cherry (Edinburgh), Andy Christie (Saracens), Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh), Scott Cummings (Glasgow), Jack Dempsey (Glasgow), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Exeter), Richie Gray (Glasgow), Nick Haining (Edinburgh), WP Nel (Edinburgh), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh, captain), Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh), Sam Skinner (Edinburgh), Rory Sutherland (Ulster), George Turner (Glasgow), Murphy Walker (Glasgow), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh).

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Backs: Mark Bennett (Edinburgh), Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Chris Harris (Gloucester), Adam Hastings (Gloucester), Stuart Hogg (Exeter), George Horne (Glasgow), Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Stafford McDowall (Glasgow), Rufus McLean (Glasgow), Ali Price (Glasgow), Cameron Redpath (Bath), Ollie Smith (Glasgow), Kyle Steyn (Glasgow), Ross Thompson (Glasgow), Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh), Ben White (London Irish).

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