HE didn’t know until last month whether it would be in the all-white of England, or the navy blue of Scotland, but Cameron Redpath has been determined to play international rugby since he was old enough to run and carry a ball.
When the moment arrived, there will have inevitably been a sense of disappointment that it happened in a near empty Twickenham Stadium, with not even his direct family allowed in to celebrate the occasion, but there is a mature head on those 21-year-old shoulders, and he was able to focus on the positives of his own accomplished performance on a historic day for Scottish rugby.
“Yeah, I’m buzzing, it couldn’t have been a better first cap,” he beamed after Saturday’s inspirational 11-6 victory for Scotland over England at Twickenham, sporting his commemorative cap, which had been presented to him by captain Stuart Hogg in the team changing room a few minutes earlier.
At least his parents, and those of fellow debutant Dave Cherry – who played 13 minutes off the bench – were able to tune-in via zoom to watch the presentation.
Redpath, who was born in France, raised in England, and ultimately chose to play for Scotland – the country his father Bryan represented with distinction 60 times between 1993 and 2003 – repaid the faith head coach Gregor Townsend had shown when throwing him in at the deep-end by delivering a polished all-round display on Saturday. It looked as if he was born to play international rugby.
“I don’t get nervous,” he shrugged. “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.”
In the course of 80 minutes, we saw powerful and elusive running depending on what the situation required, 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 in their quest to snaffle a victory which they would scarcely have deserved based on the overall pattern of play.
“When you’re in the game you don’t think like that,” replied Redpath 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 for a back, which is not normal, but I love it, so I just wanted to get my head stuck in and try it.”
England head coach Eddie Jones cut a disconsolate figure as he watched his team fail to match Scotland’s intensity and intelligence on Saturday, and his performance during the post-match press conference was graceless. He managed to congratulate Scotland on their win through gritted teeth, but then spat back reasonable questions from journalists who were trying to fathom how last year’s Six Nations winners could misfire so badly in their first outing of this campaign.
The fact that Redpath was a key component in his team’s demise will have fed the belligerent Australian’s sense of grievance. Jones invited Redpath to tour South Africa with the senior England squad back in 2018, when the player was still only 18, but a knee injury meant he had to withdraw from that trip. The inside centre has trained with the squad intermittently since then, before switching allegiance abruptly during the build-up to this Six Nations.
Scotland have been represented by 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.
Redpath says that he was never fully committed to England and revealed that Hogg had been a key figure in persuading him to eventually throw his lot in with Scotland.
“I didn’t want to rush into any decisions, I wanted to earn it,” he explained. “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.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect to be starting this game,” he added. “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 – who was one of four Scottish players to take the knee in support of the Rugby Against Racism campaign before kick-off – namechecked 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.”