Barclay, the former national captain, rates Dempsey highly and believes he has been one of Glasgow Warriors’ best players this season but he is unsure about whether the No 8 should switch after being capped 14 times by Australia.
Capped players are now allowed to transfer allegiance as long as they have spent the previous three years out of the international game and have “a close and credible link via birthright” to the country they are switching to. In practice, this means that they, a parent or a grandparent have been born in that country.
Dempsey, who joined Glasgow Warriors last summer, has a grandfather from Glasgow, and last played for Australia in October 2019. He will become eligible for Scotland in October this year.
Barclay believes that the law change was brought in to help smaller nations who lost players to the game’s powerhouses. Australia and New Zealand, for example, lured many young players from Tonga, Samoa and Fiji. They may have then dropped out of the international scene and can now revert to the country of their birth or heritage.
A potential switch by Dempsey would not be in the spirit of the law amendment, argues Barclay.
“I’ve said before that I don’t think that’s what this rule is for,” he said. “For me, it’s to help Tier 2 nations bring players back who have left at a young age to contribute to a Tier 2 nation in a rugby sense.
“I never saw this rule as a means of Tier 1 nations going to other Tier 1 nations. It’s a bit of a strange situation where you play for Australia for a number of years and then you can qualify to play for Scotland.
“As a player, he’s fantastic but I think Scotland have got a lot of good back-rowers so it is a big decision. If you look at the team, it is littered with guys who have qualified on residency, guys who have come over with grandparents who are Scottish.
“That’s the nature of the game now and we can’t bemoan Scotland’s lack of depth at times without then saying let’s look to use every avenue open to us.”