Scotland back-rower Jack Dempsey cannot wait to land in France this weekend and start “soaking in” what he believes will be a spectacular Rugby World Cup.
The Sydney-born 29-year-old went to the 2019 showpiece in Japan, by his own admission, as a peripheral figure within Australia’s squad.
But he will fly into Nice this Sunday afternoon as a key member of Scotland’s 33-man pool after taking advantage of a change in World Rugby’s eligibility rules that allowed him to switch allegiance to his grandfather’s country last year.
Dempsey expects hosts France to put on an “epic” event over the next two months and – having rediscovered career contentment and top form since joining Glasgow from New South Wales Waratahs two years ago – he is delighted to be competing at the tournament with a national squad in which he now feels firmly embedded.
“Having one World Cup experience under my belt, you realise how big a thing it is and I think you’re more grateful for it the second time,” Dempsey told the PA news agency. “I’m more prepared to soak it all in.
“To do it with this bunch of lads, it’s one of the best environments I’ve been in on and off the field. Everyone gets on, everyone’s a good bloke.
“When you get up and go to work it’s enjoyable and you have places in your career where it’s not like that. That’s the biggest thing about this crew that I like.
“To go to a World Cup, which is as big as it gets as a rugby player, something you dream of as a kid, and the fact the French, who are the best showmen in the world, are putting it on, I think it’s going to be epic.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) August 16, 2023
“As a collective, everyone in rugby, we want these big tournaments like World Cups, Lions Series and Six Nations to promote the game and the grow the game, and I think the French are the best people to do it at this point in time just because of how good they are at putting on events.”
Dempsey made two pool-stage appearances for the Wallabies at the last World Cup but was not in the 23 for the quarter-final defeat by England and felt like a bit-part player.
“I’d only played seven or eight games of rugby in that calendar year, I’d had a lot of injuries and I just scraped through really in terms of getting picked,” he recalled. “I was probably the last name put down in the back row.”
Dempsey’s status with the Wallabies four years ago is in stark contrast to the prominence he enjoys with Scotland, where he has established himself as a key member of Gregor Townsend’s back row.
“My role then was very different to what it is now,” he said. “Here I’m like a specialist number eight but back then I was more utility, I was a six, I was a seven.
“I think that shows the maturation in the cycle of my career. I’m a more complete player to what I was back then. I’m loving my rugby at the moment.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) August 27, 2023
“Since moving to Glasgow, I’ve enjoyed my role in the team. I think Scotland and Glasgow have really identified what my strengths are and put me in positions to use those strengths, which is not always something you can say in your career.
“I have a very clear, precise role which Gregor gives me with Scotland and I just go out and do it. We’re playing an attractive game of rugby, I think France, New Zealand and us are leading the way in terms of aesthetic rugby and it’s pleasing to be a part of.
“That’s the way I like to play and I’m hoping to bring that to the World Cup.”