The Waratahs scored a rare win against the might of the pound and euro last year when prop Tom Lambert returned to Daceyville after two years in the Scottish system.
The Sydney-born and raised loosehead has committed for two years, but has not dropped off the SRU’s radar, sources told the Herald.
The union’s Scottish Qualified program is an organised and transparent bid to recruit players from other countries with Scottish heritage. Irish rugby set up the same program in 2017 and France has the same, with giant second rower Manny Meafou set to debut for France later this year.
The Wallabies’ starting No.8, Rob Valetini, might have ended up in Scotland’s back row had he not rejected a three-year deal with Glasgow to stay at the Brumbies in 2019 (Valetini has Scottish and Samoan grandparents and Fijian parents). That offer, worth up to $450,000 a year, according to Scottish sources, went to Dempsey instead, and Valetini made his Test debut in gold in Australia’s World Cup warm-up against Samoa later that year.
Across last year’s Six Nations squads, 73 players were foreign-born, up from 59 in the 2021 tournament, according to an audit of the competition by Americas Rugby News.
It is the smaller European unions of Scotland, Wales and Ireland that have concentrated their efforts in this area, with England largely relying on the rich and large Premiership to produce their talent. Eastwood hooker Nic Dolly was the exception to this when he debuted for England in 2021 after playing for Leicester and qualifying through his English mother.
Australia has limited weapons with which to fend off foreign unions. They are killed on price and opportunity, with only five professional teams through which to develop promising youngsters.
The return of the Australia A program last year offered some hope. Under World Rugby eligibility laws, the Wallabies and Australia A, as well as the national sevens team, capture a player’s eligibility.
Mark Nawaqanitawase, eligible for Italy and Fiji as well as Australia, was captured through Australia A last year and went on to debut for the Wallabies on the November tour.
Once a player is capped for a nation they must serve a three-year stand-down period and then qualify through the regular eligibility laws. This is how Israel Folau now plays for Tonga and Dempsey for Scotland.
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