Redpath paves way for takeover

The Scottish scrum-half keeping out a legend has the ability and resolve to hold down the job
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FOR Matt Dawson, read Bryan Redpath. If England's tiro scrum-half had the French rattled by his high kicks in Paris last Saturday, then Scotland's No 9 can be expected to cause as many problems for the Five Nations' favourites at Murrayfield next weekend.

Redpath is a keen young man who plays every international as if it might be his last, and who can blame him with the legendary Gary Armstrong back to full fitness and breathing down his neck?

The knowledge that one poor display will push him to the back of a queue which also includes such seasoned performers as Bath's Andy Nicol and Derrick Patterson of West Hartlepool is certainly concentrating his mind, especially with a summer tour to New Zealand beckoning for whoever is in favour at the end of the season. After 16 caps, the 24-year-old self- employed joiner has not exactly nailed down his place in a dynamic, new- look Scotland team, but he did play, by common consent, the pivotal role in last weekend's 16-10 victory over Ireland at Lansdowne Road.

The promotion of Armstrong to the replacements' bench for Saturday's meeting with France has not gone unnoticed, but Redpath is taking the positive view that he must be doing something right to keep so revered a figure out of the team.

"I have learned a lot from Gary, his sheer competitiveness and the fact that he never gives in," said Redpath, who made his Scotland debut as a replacement against the All Blacks just over two years ago. "He is happy- go-lucky, but his personal pride is massive. A big part of my development came during the two years he was away from the Scotland team through injury. But now he is back it is heartening to know the selectors believe in me."

Redpath, who captained the Borders club Melrose to victory in this season's SRU Tennent's League, was not surprised by Scotland's success in Dublin even though the build-up - a draw with Western Samoa and defeat by Italy in an A international - did not bode well.

"Against Western Samoa, we weren't really prepared as we had all been concentrating on club rugby, and an international is a considerable step up from that level," he said. "Against Italy we played well, I thought, but let it go at the end. Despite those results, we still felt we had a good chance against Ireland, and with the wind at our backs in the first half I knew that if I got the ball I would have to kick it whenever possible. I was especially pleased when one kick created our first try for Kevin McKenzie."

Redpath feels that Scotland's creditable World Cup - they reached the quarter-finals and were not disgraced in their defeat by New Zealand - was the watershed in his career. "We all developed more confidence out in South Africa," he said. "It definitely made me a more assertive member of the squad."

This confidence will be tempered with realism when he runs out against France. "The Irish win was only one match and anything could happen against France," he said. "But we were confident in Dublin and we will be confident again on Saturday. We have a good team spirit, and Rob Wainwright has done a difficult job very well to take over the captaincy from Gavin Hastings."

Taking over from a great player is a job Redpath knows all about.