By Tom Decent, Sydney Morning Herald
Cardiff: Wallabies back-rower Jack Dempsey has re-signed for another two seasons with the NSW Waratahs and Australian rugby after a rollercoaster two years since his first spring tour that he says has made him determined to become a central figure at next year’s World Cup.
Dempsey missed almost 12 months of football due to a frustrating hamstring injury before returning against the All Blacks off the bench in Yokohama. His previous Test before that was a man of the match performance at Suncorp Stadium against New Zealand in October 2017.
It was the game in which he made a name for himself and it will be a relief for Australian rugby fans that he is sticking around until at least the end of the 2020 season.
“In terms of staying in NSW firstly, and then having the opportunity to represent Australia for possibly another two years is just the cherry on top really,” Dempsey said. “But for me, it’s more about representing where I come from.
“I’m 24 looking to go until I’m 26 at this point. I’m at an age and a maturity level where I don’t feel like I’m ready to leave at all, don’t want to leave, so that’s really what it came down to.
“It definitely keeps you positive after a tough year. Just looking to continue that and put the bad stuff behind me now.”
Dempsey was called up as a development player for the grand slam tour of Europe in 2016 after a Super Rugby season in which he played 11 games.
He was a sponge, soaking up information from the likes of fellow No.6s Scott Fardy and Dean Mumm. But in the back of his mind, Dempsey felt, there would be an opening and he needed to be ready to take his chance.
“When my time did come, as it has in the last couple of years, I wanted to do my best to repay the jersey and guys like that who leave that legacy behind,” Dempsey said.
“It’s really exciting, but now I’m no longer a development player and I can play, I feel I’ve got a bit more control over my identity in the team, and it’s about making sure you don’t let the boys down.”
Even now, there is palpable excitement building for the World Cup. People are talking about it on the streets and discussion at press conferences and within the rugby fraternity is slowly but surely becoming more and more about next year’s showpiece event.
The same could be said about players. Yes, of course they are focused on these November internationals, but the buzz of a World Cup is unmistakable and Dempsey is no different.
With Michael Hooper and David Pocock almost certain to play together in the back row, the Australian No.6 jersey is up for grabs, and Dempsey has his chance to impress ahead of next year.
“Everyone in Australian rugby has got that in the back of their minds, and it’s going to be a massive year next year, not only for Super Rugby because that’s going to be everyone’s opportunity to audition for the squad, but also for the World Cup itself,” Dempsey said.
“It’s up to Cheik to make the decision on not only that bench spot but also the starting team to go along with those two world-class guys.”
Dempsey is still learning his craft, and the Wales fixture marks his first start against a northern hemisphere opponent. He watched five Tests first-hand in 2016 and has made it his mission to become more well-rounded against all opponents.
“As a Super Rugby player, you don’t get to play against these types of teams and the styles of England, Wales and Ireland,” Dempsey said. “It is very different because when we look at the World Cup, everyone’s in the mix, so you’ve got to be ready for all types of opposition and all types of game plans and styles.
“That’s definitely one thing I’d like to get out of this tour – having that experience playing against the northern hemisphere teams and the tactics they have, so then when a World Cup comes, we’ll be in the best shape possible.
“Personally, if I could walk away knowing that my style of game is just as effective against this type of opposition as it is against the ones I’m used to, I guess that’s a positive.”
Jack Dempsey is managed exclusively by The Fordham Company.