Former Scotland hooker John Allan insists he “can’t lose yet again” when his ex-international team travel to Rome on Saturday for a Six Nations showdown with an Italian side featuring his 20-year-old nephew.
Tommy Allan immediately became known throughout rugby as “Tommaso” on deciding to throw in his lot with Italy, where he was born, despite being capped by Scotland at under-20 level.
The switch caused some chagrin out Murrayfield way and uncle John has been careful to remain neutral as Tommy took his chance after agreeing a contract with Perpignan.
However, family pride is only too evident when he remarked: “I played for Scotland and South Africa, which means I’m always a winner when the countries meet. Now, on Saturday, when I gather with some friends at the Crusaders rugby club in Durban to watch the match, I’ll be backing both Tommy and Scotland.
“What is intriguing for me is that both my brother [Tommy’s father] and I played hooker, whereas he has produced a stand off and my younger son, Conor, is 15 and showing a bit of promise in the No 10 jersey.
“Who knows, I might be going down the same road as my brother in having a dual parental interest in a Scotland fixture?
“The only thing I can say for certain is that Conor won’t be encouraged to play for England!”
It was against Australia in Turin last Autumn that Allan Jnr debuted off the bench and committed himself irrevocably to Italy, scoring a try to cement the relationship.
Then followed a first win, over Fiji in Cremona, again from off the bench, before being elevated to a start against Argentina in front of a 45,000 crowd at the Stadio Olimpico, Rome.
So far this Six Nations, Allan has figured against Wales at the Millennium Stadium and France in the Stade de France. It has not gone unnoticed that his points aggregate of eight is two more than the entire Scottish team have managed in their two outings.
“From the start, Tommy seemed to take well to the pressure of internationals and that’s what has impressed me most so far about him,” said John, adding: “I’ve seen more talented players crack at that age when they come on to the Test stage, but Tommy has always been calm even in those big arenas.
“In every game he has played he’s looked the part, not nervous at all.
“He distributes well and reads the game well, too.
“I speak with him occasionally and know him to be happy, which is the main thing.
“What he has to work on is his kicking and it is unfortunate that the coach he has grown up getting assistance from, Braam van Staaten, the former Springbok, isn’t allowed to be part of the Italian camp because they have their own guy in that department.
“I’m sure Tommy will keep on improving and it will be fascinating to watch on Saturday when I know a large Scottish contingent are heading to my rugby club before we go along to watch the local Sharks play the Crusaders.”
Mention of the Sharks brings Allan to the turmoil engulfing Scottish rugby.
“Sharks have three players pushing hard for every single position and if things were the same here in Scotland, it wouldn’t be so bad,” he said.
“It all comes down to numbers and the base in Scotland is so narrow.”
There is also the matter of four Italian clubs being exposed to second tier European Rugby, while Scotland have refused to go down that route with clubs.
Allan, who arrived in Scotland to be capped nine times on account of a Glasgow-born father then returned to South Africa when the barriers came down, representing the Springboks on 13 occasions, added: “Problems stretch back to the start of the professional era when a mistake was made not going down the club route and choosing districts instead.
“If they had built the game around the likes of my old Edinburgh Accies club, Heriot’s etc and let them develop from semi-pro upwards, there would be more depth.
“I remember playing for Edinburgh District and the interest wasn’t nearly as much as it was for Accies games.”