Scott Johnson might have taken the SRU phone bill into the stratosphere while trying to convince Perpignan fly-half Tommaso Allan to opt for Scotland rather than Italy, but persuading London Irish duo Kieran Low and Blair Cowan that their hearts were really in the Highlands was an altogether easier task. This, according to John-son, is how the conversations went.
"Do you want to do this?"
Which is all very well, but the brevity of the exchange is likely only to increase the sense of unease around two players whose Scottish credentials had been so well-hidden as to be virtually invisible, and the policies of a governing body who seem more enthusiastic about harvesting their neighbours' talent than growing any of their own.
The sudden and unforeseen arrival of Low and Cowan comes in the wake of a raft of southern hemisphere recruits being taken on by Edinburgh and Glasgow, professional sides that were, let's not forget, originally created as conduits for aspiring Scottish players to reach Test level. Which is not to say that ethnic purity should ever be an aim, rather to wonder why on earth we should have to scour the planet in the first place.
It is clearly a touchy subject for Johnson. And it is going to get touchier, for when he finally unshackles himself from his duties as Scotland's interim head coach - he will be released from that burden when Vern Cotter takes over the role next year - Johnson will carry a wider responsibility for the sport's wellbeing as Scotland's Director of Rugby. After which, the buck will stop right with him.
With an autumn Test series looming, Johnson may be forgiven for concentrating on other matters for the moment, but the need to enlist Low and Cowan, breakaway forwards both, highlights a problem that is already pressing. It is not so long since Scotland punched far above their weight in producing quality back-row players, but the supply has diminished to a trickle over the past few seasons.
Of the six loose forwards who started last Sunday's Heineken Cup matches for Edinburgh and Glasgow, only one - Rob Harley - was in the national squad Johnson named two days later. Granted, players such as Kelly Brown, Al Strokosch, John Barclay and Johnny Beattie came through the Edinburgh and Glasgow finishing schools before moving on to clubs in England, Wales and France, but you have to wonder where the next generation is coming from, especially in light of the hammerings Scotland's amateur sides have been taking in the British and Irish Cup.
"At Edinburgh, some of the [recruitment] stuff is short term," said Johnson carefully, "to fill injury voids and suchlike. It's to cover certain situations. It's just to weather the storm."
As Edinburgh's squad also includes Ross Rennie and Dave Denton, both of whom were ruled out by injury a week ago, Johnson makes a valid point. But the fact remains that precious few quality back-row forwards have emerged in Scotland over the past few seasons.
However, the Australian sees better times ahead. "We have a bumper crop of great athletes coming through at 16, 17 and 18 years old, - athletes that we've not seen the like of for a while," he said. "So no, I'm not concerned. The emphasis is to get them through quicker."
In that regard, at least, things seem to be improving. If Glasgow's 19-year-old Jonny Gray makes the step up from the national squad to the national team within the next five months he will become the first teenager to play in the Scotland pack for more than 60 years. With great lumps like Gray appearing on the scene, we seem to have passed the stage when Scotland's best young players could routinely be described as gifted but scrawny, but there are still deep-rooted problems in the lack of competitive intensity at schools and youth levels.
This more than three years on from the day the SRU were ordered by their membership to bring in an integrated playing structure that would see clubs and schools compete against each other on an equal footing. Johnson has never been slow to parade his blue-collar credentials, but he keeps his Sir Les Patterson act well under wraps when the subject of Scotland's private schools arises.
"You've got to acknowledge what the private schools have done for rugby in this country, and acknowledge the positives," he said. "The positive is that they have produced a lot of kids. That's fantastic. But what we have to do is broaden our catchment.
"We've got to make sure they continue to do the job, that's an important historical strength of Scottish rugby. I'm not going to sit here and criticise because I think it's fantastic. What we need is more, and if that means we have to open the pathways into different, non-rugby communities and give kids opportunities, that is also important.
"There is a lot of vested interest and history that I don't know about. I can't sit here and say I have all the answers to what has occurred in the past. But I do agree that we want intensity. We want competition."
At least he has some of that coming his way in the shape of full-blooded Tests against Japan, South Africa and Australia over the next month. Johnson may have said he would be happy to lose every game this year if the pool of Scottish talent was widened and deepened, but even he, with the unprecedented job security he enjoys while Cotter waits in the wing, would have his wider authority critically undermined if Scotland suffered a repeat of the autumn whitewash that brought Andy Robinson's coaching reign to a halt last year.
His emphasis in selection will be trying combinations of players. Darkly, he hints of disappointment with the way some of Scotland's bigger names have been performing lately, but he also says there will be no unnecessary chopping and chang- ing. "There will be constants to select- ion," he said. "I need to have runs on the board from some players."