In looking ahead to the prospect of his 100th appearance for his country, a milestone he reaches at the Millennium Stadium this afternoon, Chris Paterson spoke the other day of how his passion to play for Scotland was first stirred by school bus trips up to Murrayfield for international matches.
Those excursions from the Scottish Borders were run by the PE master at Galashiels Academy, Rob Moffat. Now the head coach at Paterson's professional club, Edinburgh, Moffat is uniquely placed to appreciate the flowering of Scotland's first cap centurion, their 31-year-old full-back.
"I first saw Chris play when he came to the school, aged 11 or 12," Moffat recalled yesterday. "He was always hugely enthusiastic about the game. He came from a rugby family, of course. His uncle, Dunc Paterson, was an international [capped 10 times for Scotland as a scrum-half between 1969 and 1972] and Chris's brother, David, and his cousins were all good players.
"Chris was the type of kid who walked about with a ball in his hands and he'd stick out as somebody who was obsessed by the game, in a good way. If he didn't have a practice on at school, he'd go out training by himself, and not many kids do that. He always mentions Mick Byrne when he talks about his kicking and Mick [Scotland's kicking coach from 2002 to 2004] probably put the gloss on his goalkicking, in terms of technical detail. But, in fairness, most of what Chris has, he's got with his own hard work."
What Paterson has got with his deadly right boot, going back to the final match of the 2007 season, is 34 goal kicks out of 34 in the Six Nations Championships. He has always had a lot more about him than just his kicking boot, though. At Galashiels Academy he played in the No 10 shirt worn before him by Gregor Townsend and was seen as a fly-half of similarly outstanding ability.
"Chris was always a talented individual," Moffat reflects. "I can remember taking the kids on a tour to Canada and Chris playing against boys two years older and they didn't have a clue what he was doing against them. He also played his first pro game for me. I was assistant coach at Glasgow Caledonian in the early days of professional rugby and we were short of a stand-off. Chris would be about 19 at the time. We played Ulster across there and he made a break from inside his own 22 and ran about 70 metres and laid on a try. A couple of the other coaches said, 'Mm, he's not a bad player.'
"He's a good player and, for me, he's playing as well now as he ever has done. He's just signed another two-year contract for us. We offered him a three-year contract but he wasn't sure what his body would be like in two years' time. Knowing Chris, if he thought he was not at the level he wanted to be, he would walk away anyway. That's the kind of player he is."
It is the kind of person Paterson happens to be, too. The self-effacing Borderer will probably have to be shoved out of the tunnel by his team-mates this afternoon to step on to the pitch ahead of them, the honour traditionally afforded to landmark achievers. "A lot of that comes from Chris's upbringing – from his parents and his family," Moffat said. "It's a fantastic achievement for him, reaching 100 caps, but I know he wants to concentrate on the game. He wants to focus on playing well tomorrow and on helping Scotland to win."Reuse content