CAMERON REDPATH says that Stuart Hogg played a key role in persuading him to commit his international future to Scotland rather than England.
The 21-year-old was born in France, raised in England and has Scottish parentage [father Bryan picked up 60 caps in the dark blue between 1993 and 2003], which means he could have thrown his lot in with any of those three countries. During the last three or four years it had looked increasingly likely that he would opt to follow the rose given that he played for England at Under-20s level and accepted an invite to tour South Africa with the senior team when he was still only 18 back in 2018. He also trained with Eddie Jones‘ side last season.
So, it came as a surprise when Gregor Townsend announced a fortnight before the start of this year’s Six Nations that the youngster had joined the Scotland squad, although nobody who witnessed his contribution to Saturday’s excellent win over England will doubt that getting Redpath on board was a major coup.
“I didn’t want to rush into any decisions, I wanted to earn it,” said Redpath on Saturday night. “I felt like this was the right time to come into international rugby and Hoggy was in touch quite a bit saying he felt that I could play a massive part for us. For me, it was the right time, but he also had a massive say on my decision. The way we play as a squad is enjoyable for fans and enjoyable for us. That was a massive appeal for me. This came at the right time.”
Hogg’s siege-gun kicking and all-round excellence meant he was a stick-on for man-of-the-match on Saturday, but on almost any other day Redpath’s showing would have been enough to earn him the bottle of bubbly.
Over the 80 minutes, we saw both powerful and elusive running, slick handling, astute kicking and a couple of important turnovers, including one with five minutes to go which stopped England in their tracks just as they appeared to be building up a head of steam for one final tilt at glory.
“When you’re in the game you don’t think like that,” he shrugged, when asked if that turnover was the moment when he realised that Scotland had the result in the bag. “I just saw it open up and I love a jackal, which is not normal for a back, but I love it, so I just wanted to get my head stuck in and try it.”
Redpath looked like he was a seasoned international in terms of decision-making, communication and general self-confidence.
“I don’t get nervous,” he said. “I’m quite lucky. It’s been my dream to play international rugby from the age of three so it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. If I get nervous, I’d probably end up doing something a bit iffy, so it’s about enjoying it and taking every step as it comes.”
Scotland have fielded plenty of players who have come through the English system over the years, but few – if any – up until now would have been serious contenders for full international honours south of the border at the time they made the switch.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect to be starting this game,” said Redpath. “A huge part of my decision to come up and play for Scotland was that I wanted to earn it, deserve it and feel like I had played well enough to be on the international stage. I needed to feel like I’d trained well enough, get the calls right and get to know the lads. It worked out well and hopefully I can push on, train well and be in contention to start again.
Redpath name-checked Hogg, Finn Russell, Jamie Ritchie and his centre partner Chris Harris as key players in his quick assimilation into the Scotland set-up.
“He [Harris] is a great guy and a great player,” he said. “For me it was really comfortable. He was chatting all the time which made it so easy. He’s a very good defender which is very helpful, and his attack’s not too bad either, so really good. I loved playing with him and hopefully there’s more to come.”
Meanwhile, Townsend explained that while Ritchie and Sean Maitland had to come off early with fatigue on Saturday, he expects both to be available again for next weekend’s home match against a Wales side who will be buoyed by their victory over 14-man Ireland this weekend.
The coach said there was no new injury concerns immediately after the England match although there is always the potential for issues to emerge as the adrenalin subsides and muscles relax.
“We just have to improve from this Saturday to next Saturday,” he added. “There were a lot of good things to build on – but there is still a lot to improve, because the Six Nations is five one-off games against great teams. We know Wales will be very good next week.”