Plenty of rugby-minded Twitter folk rubbed the sleep out of their eyes this morning to news that Tommy Allan had been called up to Italy’s squad for the November internationals.
Did we just get Shinglered?
The promising young Perpignan fly-half Allan has represented Scotland at age grade level while playing his junior rugby for London Scottish then Western Province in South Africa, but was not deemed worthy of an EDP contract this season and set sail for the bright lights of France.
Unfortunately for would-be Scotland selectors everywhere, Perpignan has ties to Italy stronger than the shadow of Nathan Hines and the presence of the Big Stroker himself. Italy coach Jaques Brunel had his coat on the peg there for quite a while, and word must have reached his ears of a young player who had limited game time in the Top 14 but thrived on what he was given.
Unlike the aforementioned Welsh/Scottish/Welsh Steven Shingler, Allan is not yet tied by nationality as Scotland have an A team (which we have decided today should be called the Unicorns, in collaboration with old mucker Alan Dymock).
So Allan is free to choose, and the only way to stop him being tied to Italy is for Scotland to call him up too and see which way he falls.
Is that worth our time, or his?
Although Edinburgh are gaspingly short of a fly half of proven class, they aren’t short of young Scots who might be that, given time. Hunter and Leonard were the two chosen to understudy Laidlaw and Francis this season and who knows what Solomons might have gone for had he arrived sooner. This in fact is perhaps a whole different story, about talent identification and retention at Murrayfield not to mention a little bit of “what the hell are you playing at?”, with the raft of foreign signings as potential Scottish talent goes out the exit the other way.
At the other end of the M8 Glasgow are chock full of standoffs, with Jackson, Weir and Horne representing possibly 3 out of Scotland’s top 5 current choices (Tom Heathcote and Greig Laidlaw being the others). And then there is sometime British and Irish Lions fly-half Stuart Hogg, or Matt Scott, both young but seasoned internationalists with time in the 10 shirt. I didn’t even mention Phil Godman who seems to be experiencing a bit of a resurgence down at Newcastle.
Those are the names Tommy Allan would trail in the queue, were he to make the squad.
Yes he’s talented, but is it likely he would justify a cap this November, even perhaps against England Saxons at Scotstoun? Wouldn’t we be picking him just in hope he becomes great, at some point in the future? Is that fair to him when Italy are perhaps ready to put faith in him sooner?
Of course, his real name isn’t Tommy, it’s Tomasso, a name his rugby-playing Italian mother gave him, when he was born in Italy. So let’s look at it from that point of view.
Italy have struggled for a great fly-half for longer than Dan Parks’ career, and if Allan were to prove himself capable of that mantle he could be looking at an extended run in the Azure shirt for the next decade. A consistent talent in that shirt running their midfield could take Italy to the next level. I’m not saying Tommy Allan is that guy, but why not try to find out? It’s almost as big a challenge as taking Scotland to the next level.
If things didn’t work out at Perpignan – if they re-signed Dan Carter or some other journeyman – he could always move to Italy and continue living the Mediterranean lifestyle playing for Zebre or Treviso, assuming they survive fallout from any forthcoming ERC bloodbath and the resulting drop in income.
So Tommy, if you go with Dad and hold out for Scotland fair enough.
But I don’t blame you if you fancy life as an Italian like Mum.