SCOTLAND are still hopeful that under-20 fly-half Tommy Allan could yet follow his uncle into the national team as a tug o’ war breaks out with Italy.
As revealed in yesterday’s Scotsman, the 20-year-old has been included in Italy’s training squad to prepare for the forthcoming autumn Test series. Born to an Italian rugby-playing mother, Paola Berlato, and Scottish father William, Allan’s uncle John, who won nine caps for Scotland and 13 for the Springboks, believes he may not yet have made up his mind. “I’m a proud uncle but also slightly confused,” he told BBC Scotland.
“Things have happened quickly for my nephew. I was always pushing Tommy to play for Scotland, but I think he’ll go for whoever gets in first. The only problem I have is why did Scotland let this opportunity slip through their hands?
“He has done extremely well at Perpignan, learning under the Welsh fly-half James Hook and sometimes getting into the first team ahead of him.”
The SRU have not let him slip, but rather suffered through the lack of opportunities in the two-team pro system. The Allan family moved from South Africa to London when Tommy was seven and he came up through the Wasps academy and London Scottish club, who promoted him to the Exiles system.
He represented Scotland from under-17 to two seasons at under-20 levels, turning out at full-back, centre and stand-off. He joined the Western Province academy in South Africa on leaving school in Wycombe, and won the U19s Currie Cup, but, after making ten appearances for the Scotland under-20 team in the Six Nations Championship and IRB World Junior Championships, he was offered a place in the Edinburgh or Glasgow academy.
There his progress became rather cloudy. Edinburgh already have Piers Francis, Harry Leonard and Gregor Hunter - and Greig Laidlaw, when needed - vying for the no10 jersey, while Glasgow boast Ruaridh Jackson, Duncan Weir, Scott Wight and Finn Russell. Bath’s Tom Heathcote is also very much in the battle for the Scotland position.
Despite encouragement from recent Scotland under-20s coaches Peter Wright and Sean Lineen to join a Scottish club, when Perpignan stepped in and offered an academy deal, with the chance to work with British and Irish Lion James Hook and new French cap Camille Lopez at Stade Aime Giral, the youngster decided on a move to Catalan country. A talented and confident 6ft1 fly-half, Allan has good running and passing skills, and his goal-kicking in this year’s U20 Six Nations was first-class.
He made his Top 14 debut a month ago opposite Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton in a Perpignan versus Racing Metro game, kicked three penalties and a conversion and showed maturity in a narrow 19-16 defeat. Though he has not featured in another Top 14 game he is understood to have been upgraded to a senior contract.
He was born in Vicenza – his full Christian name is Tommaso – while his father was playing rugby in Italy, and with his mother having played scrum-half for the Italian women’s team, it has now emerged that that route was always an alternative option.
However, the senior Scotland management have remained in regular contact with Allan, speaking as recently as last week, and remain hopeful that he may yet stay true to his father’s homeland. An SRU spokesman confirmed that they have spoken to Allan about his next move and are waiting to hear from him.
He is named in an enlarged Italy squad for a training camp. They will name their finalised autumn Test squad on 3 November. With few choices at fly-half Italy coach Jacques Brunel is believed to be keen to tie him to Italy as soon as possible, but he is also very much in Scotland’s sights. It is now up to the 20-year-old to decide whether to commit himself to the Azzurri blue or the Scottish navy.