BARELY an interview with Cam Redpath goes by when he is not asked about the influence on his career of father Bryan – who played 60 times for Scotland and led the team at the 2003 World Cup – but the 23-year-old spoke on Monday about how some words of wisdom from his mother, Gill, has helped him keep perspective during the roller-coaster ride of being in his first World Cup squad.
He would dearly have loved to have started Scotland’s opening match against South Africa in Marseilles a week past Sunday, and he is just as desperate to be in the No 12 jersey against Tonga in Nice this coming Sunday, but if he ends up oh the bench again, or out the match-day 23 altogether, he’s not going to let the vagaries of the selection process influence his general sense of well-being.
“When I got into the squad, my mum said to me: ‘To do two ACLs and have seven operations at 23, you could easily have been written off as a young player’ – which made me realise what I’ve come through to get here,” he recalls. “I know a lot of people who have had big knee injuries or neck operations, and they’ve just faded away and not really played at international level. So, for me to be in the position I am is a reward for all the work I’ve put into rehab and things like that.
“It is never nice to be out for a long period of time [and] after my debut it was a year out until my next cap, then it was exactly the same until my next cap, so my first two years of international rugby didn’t exactly go too well.
“It is nice just to be in the mix. Even though I want to be starting and playing the full game every week, all the centres here get on really well and work hard together, and we all feel like we’re playing well so it is really up to the coaches who they pick,” added Redpath, before acknowledging that it was quite emotional to hear his mother praise his resilience.
“Yes, because as a player, you just keep getting up and going to the gym every day, and you forget about how much you have been through,” he explains. “At the time, you watch games and would love to be out there, but then you kind of forget that feeling.
“And, if I’m honest, because this whole pre-season was so long, I kind of forgot the special side of being in a World Cup squad until I got out here, with the police escorts taking us everywhere, the hype around the stadium on match-day, seeing my family and girlfriend after the game.
“It did feel really special and I did take a minute to look in the mirror and think: ‘I have been through a lot’. And I am proud of myself because even if I’m not getting a start, I am still in a position which every kid who picks up a rugby ball dream of getting to.”
Among the various injury set-backs Redpath has suffered since bursting into senior rugby as an 18-year-old, there was an ACL rupture which kept him out for nine months between the summer of 2018 and early 2019, a bulging disc in his neck which required surgery soon after his first cap in February 2021, another cruciate rupture in May 2021, followed by another neck/shoulder injury after his second cap against Wales in February 2022.
“I’m quite a positive person when it comes to injuries – it is something I pride myself on,” he says. “Being young when I got my first one, it was something I had to get my head round, and, if I’m honest, I didn’t really come back from it very well because I never really found my feet at Sale Sharks again after that, so moving to Bath [in the summer of 2020 – where he will team up with Finn Russell next season – was a really good thing because it was a fresh start and a fresh pair of eyes on my body.
“Going through all those injuries, I’m 23 now and I’ve figured out a lot more about my body and what I need to do to get myself right.
“I’ve definitely had to change parts of my game. I used to jackal at every single breakdown because I loved it and felt like I used to get a lot of turnovers, but I did my neck twice jackaling which is obviously not ideal, and I also did my shoulder jackaling. So, I’ve kind of had to ease that down and it is now about picking the right moments.
“I’ve not actually lost any speed, even through I sometimes look at myself and think I look slow, and my footwork is one of the things I didn’t want to lose because I felt like it was a massive part of my game. I feel like being somebody who isn’t as big as the boys I am up against – like Sione [Tuipulotu], Ollie Lawrence or Manu Tuilagi or someone like that – I need to be someone who tries to beat defenders and get my hands free, so that was something I didn’t want to lose and I’ve worked really hard on getting that back.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym working hard on my strength because to keep that power as a centre is massively important.”
“So, I’ve definitely changed parts of my game, adding some things which have helped me massively, but there are other things that I’ve still got to work on. I’m still only 23 with lots to learn, and hopefully a long career still to go.
“I suppose I’m unfortunate that all those things happened at the start of my career, but it looks like things have started to go my way in the last year or two,” he adds.
“It is obviously not nice at the time, it can hurt, and when I’m a 50-year-old man I think I’ll be complaining about it, but I’ll deal with that when it comes – I’m just enjoying the ride at the moment.”
Scotland must win against Tonga to keep alive their dream of progressing to the knock-out stages of this World Cup.
“They are a good team, full of talented players, so you can’t write them off,” concluded Redpath. “They are also very physical, so if you get a hospital pass then you are going to get your ribs broken. It is just about clarity for us and getting our roles right, then picking the right option when it comes.”