Jack Dempsey in line for tasty debut after switch of allegiance as Cam Redpath and Richie Gray make welcome return

Gregor Townsend will have no qualms about throwing Jack Dempsey in for his Scotland debut against Australia if the player can prove his fitness for the game at Murrayfield a week on Saturday.

Cameron Redpath enjoyed a memorable Scotland debut in the win over England at Twickenham in 2021. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Cameron Redpath enjoyed a memorable Scotland debut in the win over England at Twickenham in 2021. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Dempsey, who has been capped 14 times by the Wallabies and played for them at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, was yesterday named in the Scotland squad for the first time. The Glasgow Warriors No 8 has taken advantage of World Rugby’s law change on eligibility which allows capped players 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 to which they are switching. Dempsey’s Scottish link is through his grandfather on his mother’s side and he is now in line to pull on the dark blue.

Townsend, who said he brokered the deal over a cup of green tea, believes Dempsey has the temperament to handle a Scotland debut against the country of his birth. The coach compared it to Cameron Redpath’s first Test in Scottish colours which came against England – the side the centre had represented at under-20 level – in the historic Calcutta Cup win at Twickenham in 2021. “I remember speaking to Cam Redpath when he came into the squad,” said Townsend. “The first game he was available for was against England. I asked him: ‘What do you reckon?’ He said: ‘I would love to play against England’. That went quite well.

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“I’m sure Jack will be similar. I know his family have been very supportive. I had a really good chat with him last October, then again before the summer tour and again two weeks ago over in Glasgow over a couple of green teas. We’re delighted he came to that decision. He’s thought about it a long time. “We’re hoping he’s available for selection. He’s in the squad. Whether he plays this weekend, we’ll see. There’s been illness in the Glasgow camp and he’s coming back from a rib injury. Usually we say this is a player that will thrive at Test level. Well, he’s already played at Test level.”

Jack Dempsey is in line to play for Scotland against Australia. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Dempsey is one of three uncapped (by Scotland, at least) players in Townsend’s 40-man squad for the autumn Tests. The other two are Dempsey’s Glasgow team-mates, centre Stafford McDowall and prop Murphy Walker. Other eye-catching selections for the four-game series include Richie Gray, the towering lock who has not started for Scotland since 2017, and the aforementioned Redpath who has been blighted by serious neck injuries.

Townsend has been enthused by Gray’s recent form for Glasgow. “He’s played two games this season where it’s the best I’ve seen him play in more than five years – against Cardiff and against the Bulls,” said the coach. “His form has been great to see. The other thing is him saying that he wants to play for Scotland again. His form has helped that decision. He feels he can perform at Test level.”

Redpath’s return is especially gratifying. “I was down at Bath last week. He’s come back from that neck operation,” said Townsend. “We all know how well Cam played in that first game for us. It’s great to have him back.”

Richie Gray is back in the national squad after impressing for Glasgow Warriors. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

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