Rugby World Cup: Scotland's Jack Dempsey on being a different player, going 'to a dark place' and no Jesse Kriel apology
As a youngster making his way with the Wallabies he admits was starstruck when coming up against players like All Blacks Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read. He’s too long in the tooth now to be cowed by such luminaries and will go into Saturday’s Pool B showdown with Ireland on an equal footing. They may be the No 1 team in the world but Dempsey is refreshingly unfazed.
“I have seen first hand what Ireland have and they will agree we are the most similar to them and they are the most similar to us with the brand of rugby we want to play,” he said. “We had prep this week and we are looking forward to going to a dark place and getting the job done.”
Dempsey, who took advantage of a change to World Rugby’s eligibility rules to make the switch from Australia, made his Scotland debut less than a year ago (against the Wallabies) and is now established as first-choice No 8. Along with back-row colleagues Jamie Ritchie and Rory Darge, he will have a huge role to play against Ireland in Paris where the Scots need to win and deny their opponents a bonus point. Asked if it was his biggest game to date, Dempsey hesitated.
“Tough question,” he said. “Your first cap is always big but my first Bledisloe Cup was my first game ever against New Zealand. I started at six, got the win and man of the match so I think that one was big. That was probably the biggest because as a kid growing up in Australia ... the history of a Scotland v England rivalry is like New Zealand and Australia.
“On a personal level I am a very different player, both physically and mentally. I kind of viewed the game a bit differently. Back then I was kind of a starstruck young player in my early 20s, going up against guys like Retallick, Whitelock and Kieran Read who was number eight. Now I am not so much being held hostage by big stars like that anymore. I have been around long enough to deal with that.”
Dempsey was the victim of a high tackle by South Africa’s Jesse Kriel in Scotland’s opening World Cup game which went unpunished by either the referee or the off-field officials. It angered Gregor Townsend and rightly so and Dempsey revealed there had been no apology forthcoming from Kriel. “No, not yet,” he said. “If he wanted to, he probably could not find me because I don't have social media. Nah, we have dealt with that. It was disappointing in the moment but we had a week off straight after then played Tonga and Romania. There have been weeks to forget about it all. It was disappointing to see and there has been a lot of chat about it. All the bases have been covered so it is just we have to make sure the game is moving forward at all times.”
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