Italy have swiped a promising young fly-half from under the noses of the Scottish rugby selectors, a hammer blow in what is still a problem position.
Tommaso – or “Tommy” – Allan was one of three uncapped players listed yesterday in Jacques Brunel’s squad for the autumn Tests.
Allan qualifies for Italy thanks to the fact that he was born in Vicenza to an Italian mother, Paola, when father William was living and playing rugby in Italy. Just to rub salt into Scottish wounds, the 20-year-old playmaker was pictured on the Italian Rugby Federation’s (FIR) website sporting the Scotland Under-20s shirt that he wore just last season.
Allan is the nephew of former Scotland hooker John Allan, who was capped nine times for Scotland and turned out another 13 times for his adopted country of South Africa where the family emigrated when Allan was a child. His nephew has been brought up in South Africa but qualified for Scotland and turned out for the Scotland U18s and 20s, for the past two seasons, alternating between centre and full-back before finishing up as an influential fly-half.
He moved to Perpignan in the summer where he was taken in hand by Welshman James Hook. The youngster has played one full match in the Top 14, against Racing Metro, in which he scored 11 of his team’s 16 points with three penalties and one conversion. It was an assured performance and he remained on the field for the full eighty.
Sadly for Scotland, Perpignan has several close ties with Italy. Italy’s boss Brunel coached at the club before moving to Rome two years ago. According to Italian sources, Brunel travelled to France to watch Allan in action – tipped off, no doubt, by Perpignan’s forwards’ coach Giampiero di Carli, who is expected to follow his former boss to Italy.
While it is a gamble promoting a 20-year-old in such a key position, some will see it as no different to throwing Bath’s fly-half Tom Heathcote, also 20, into a losing cause in Aberdeen when Andy Robinson’s Scotland team were beaten by Tonga for the first time ever last November. Robinson resigned in the aftermath of the defeat but Heathcote, who was only on the field for 16 minutes, was tied to Scotland thereafter.
The Bath fly-half was born in Scotland, but played for England throughout the age grade teams. This committed him to Scotland and he followed up that international with another two appearances on the summer tour, starting against both Samoa and Italy. Currently unable to get a start at Bath where George Ford is heaping the pressure on England incumbent Owen Farrell, Heathcote must be a target for Edinburgh.
Listed alongside a couple of ageing Argentinian fly-halves – Luciano Orquera and Alberto Di Bernardo – in the Italian squad, Allan has every chance of
emulating Heathcote and making his international debut in November when Italy face Australia, Fiji and Argentina. That first Azzurri cap, if and when it comes, would bind Allan to Italy for the remainder of his playing days.
Unless they can change the youngster’s mind in the next few weeks, the move will be seen as a bitter pill for the SRU to swallow since they have been monitoring the player’s progress closely with Clermont coach, Vern Cotter, handily placed to do so ahead of his move to Scotland next season. Allan is listed in Perpignan’s website as Scottish, but this may need to be updated.
Forwards: Matias Aguero, Martin Castrogiovanni, Lorenzo Cittadini, Michele Rizzo, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Davide Giazzon, Andrea Manici, Valerio Bernabo, Marco Bortolami, Joshua Furno, Antonio Pavanello, Robert Barbieri, Mauro Bergamasco, Simone Favaro, Sergio Parisse (captain), Manoa Vosawai, Alessandro Zanni
Backs: Tobias Botes, Alberto Chillon, Tommaso Allan, Alberto Di Bernado, Luciano Orquera, Michele Campagnaro, Gonzalo Canale, Gonzalo Garcia, Luca Morisi, Alberto Sgarbi, Tommaso Benvenuti, Tommaso Iannone, Luke McLean, Leonardo Sarto, Ruggero Trevisan, Alberto De Marchi, Edoardo Gori, Giovambattista Venditti.