Rugby: Edinburgh set to face Tommy Allan

Despite having played for Scotland Under-20s, Tommy Allan is now training with the full Italian squad. Pic: SNS

Despite having played for Scotland Under-20s, Tommy Allan is now training with the full Italian squad. Pic: SNS

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EDINBURGH could get a close-up of the skills that have made Tommy (or Tommaso) Allan the subject of international rugby wooing when they take their Heineken European Cup campaign to Perpignan on Sunday.

Allan is the young stand off who grew up in South Africa, came through the age-group ranks with Scotland and has just been taking part in senior international training sessions with Italy, having been born there.

However, so far as Perpignan are concerned, it is what he does in their famous red-and-yellow colours that counts and another opportunity to display his skills after a stand-out debut against Racing Metro recently could be just around the corner.

“There is every chance Tommy might play (against Edinburgh),” said Perry Freshwater, the former England prop who moved to France a decade ago and is now team manager.

“Tommy played well for us at Racing Metro and is with us every day training hard, apart from when he is with the Italians, who have been in camp this week.

“He will be back when we re-group and we’ll see who is fit and available, but we are in a position where we release guys for internationals to France, Wales, England, Scotland, Tonga, Georgia and Romania as well as France.

“Those guys have to be given time off before Christmas and we rested a few when we began our Heineken Cup campaign at Gloucester last weekend just as we will this weekend so Tommy might get an opportunity.

“Having said that, it is still a very competitive squad and so far as Tommy is concerned, you can see he has very good potential. You can see the work ethic he has.

“He benefits from being around James Hook (Wales and Lions) and Camille Lopez (the French stand off who debuted away to the All Blacks during the summer).

“Other experienced players like Lifeimi Mafe (ex-Munster) also grab him and help him put in tackling practice after training sessions. There’s certainly no shying away from hard work where Tommy is concerned.”

While Scotland head coach Scott Johnson has said he “won’t go begging” Allan to change his mind, Murrayfield authorities are understandably frustrated that Tommy gained experience in the under-20s and have pledged to try to make him think again.

What is clear is that Freshwater does not expect any controversy to affect Allan.

“When we signed him he was Tommaso Allan, a Scottish player with an Italian passport.

“Then he rocked up and he was actually South African! I think he will take it all in his stride.

“Tommy seems to be a bit of a man of the world and people will have advised him. He will have listened to his loved ones and made his decision.”

While Perpignan suffered the chagrin of conceding a late try to go down 22-27 at Gloucester in their opening match, Edinburgh were coming from behind to beat Munster 29-23.

Freshwater, a kiwi, is wary of all the Celtic nations citing Ulster’s win over Leicester as another reason to be cautious.

Against the background of a dispute which has seen French and English clubs threaten to launch their own competition partly due to automatic qualification for Pro 12 counterparts, Freshwater said: “The main thing the French guys think about the Celtic League boys is there is no relegation in that competition and in the French competition it is very, very tight.

“We saw Ulster against Leicester and how much of the top boys are rested in preparation for these Heineken Cup games. It is a main concern for the French that they (Celts) are resting their top guys from three weeks out. So far as Edinburgh are concerned I’m not sure if that actually happens, but as for the Irish provinces we are seeing that. We are wary that league positions might be completely false.”

“The Edinburgh result was very interesting and Glasgow have just shown how good a side they are. After having a tough 40 minutes in Toulon where they trailed 34-0 at half time they fought back to 28-51.

“There’s a lot of respect for Edinburgh. We know a few people who play there and they’re a typical Anglo-Saxon side, very well drilled and disciplined. They take points when they need to.

As for us our coach, Marc Delpoux does like to play open rugby. Hook and Lopez have very good vision and the latter isn’t afraid to kick to the corners.

“We do try for abrasiveness, though, in trying to give sides a bit of a rub up before we start to play especially at home.

“At the moment we are sixth in the French Top 14, three points off the lead and three points away from being ninth and if anybody had offered us this position in, say July, we’d have taken it because there is a long way to go.

“The Heineken Cup is special, though, and there’s an awareness we haven’t really done anything in it for a year or two (semi-finalists three seasons ago).

“The folk in the town are excited about Edinburgh’s visit, but I do worry about how the players will cope with the 1.45 kick-off and having to eat their pre-match chicken and pasta early in the morning!” said Freshwater.