Bryan Redpath is in France preparing his Scotland Under-20 squad for the junior World Cup which starts this week and knows that, by the time he returns, his eldest son will still have the option of following him into a dark blue jersey after suffering the blow of an anterior cruciate ligament knee injury.
It is a huge setback for the 18-year-old Sale Sharks academy stand-off/centre who was a surprise inclusion in Eddie Jones’s touring squad and his main priority will now be a lengthy rehab process. But the old man knows that it gives more time for the youngster to weigh up his international options.
“He was born in France and he spent most of his childhood down in England when I was playing there,” said the former Scotland captain and scrum-half, who won 60 caps and played in three World Cups.
“The key thing is that it’s his life, it’s not my life, and nobody else’s life either. Whatever decisions get made, parents, dads, mums, whatever it may be, we all make decisions based on what the kids will be happy with.
“I would love for him to play for Scotland, I would love him to be with Gregor [Townsend]. I know he is a good kid. He would fit in exceptionally well here.
“But also I can’t keep playing him Flower of Scotland when he goes to bed at night. I can’t keep buying him tartan pyjamas and all that!”
Being in the south of France brings back happy memories for Redpath, who left Melrose for Narbonne, one of the World Under-20 Championship venues, in the late 1990s. It was where Cameron was born and Redpath snr was back in that neck of the woods earlier this year to watch his son play for England Under-20s against France in Béziers, where the young Scots will open their campaign against Italy on Wednesday.
“It was beautiful to go back and I caught up with some old friends,” he said. “I said to Cam ‘imagine being back in Narbonne where I played and you were born. And you are potentially playing for England, and me coaching against them’?”
Events have unfolded to scupper that but Redpath hopes to get back to Narbonne in the latter stages after the final pool games against Argentina in Perpignan and back to Béziers for that auld enemy crunch against England.
Redpath is relishing his stint coaching a squad which includes eight additions from the junior Six Nations campaign, but is adamant that it is not a toe-dipping exercise with a view to a full-time return.
The former Gloucester, Sale and Yorkshire Carnegie boss walked away from rugby last summer to embark on a new financial career with foreign exchange specialists AFEX and he couldn’t be more clear that he isn’t in the market for another head coach role.
“No, no, Jesus Christ. I have been there, had the angry mentality about it all. It takes up your life,” he said. “When you become a director or a head coach it takes your life and it becomes very lonely. You sometimes have to sack staff, move good friends on. If I don’t change them the chairman changes me so it is not necessarily the best way of keeping very good friends.”
Preparing with these Scotland Under-20s at the state of the art Oriam centre, where they have enjoyed training sessions with the senior squad, prompts Redpath to recall his own vastly contrasting age-grade days.
“We didn’t have any World Cups then and it was under-21s,” he said. “I was quite lucky with it all and played 18s, 19s and 21s. A lot of the guys I played with and against back then went on to full international honours.
“I remember playing Wales Under-21s with Rob Howley, Neil Jenkins, Scott Gibbs and Scott Quinnell. It was different because it was all amateur. I’d be on the building sites as a joiner and then going off to play for the Under-21s on a Friday night.
“The opportunity to play in a World Cup every year is great for these kids coming through. If you can get two years with the Under-20s you learn a lot. You start to get a notice of the players coming through and build a little portfolio of familiarity. And with our boys too, someone like Gregor can watch them closely and pick out the potential. Training with the national team is good, it should inspire them.
“So the training is better, better kit, better food, good hotels, they get looked after a lot better than in my day.”
The Scots recently played two of their three pool opponents in the Six Nations, beating England but losing to Italy.
“Obviously Italy are tough. Big and physical with an aggressive blitz defence so we’ve got to manage that well. We have to be willing to take the physical contest head on,” said Redpath. “Argentina will be the same but have more of a chop tackle mentality. They are a bit more unknown for us but we will have one game to watch them when we’re out there before we play them.
“England are England aren’t they? We did well here against them in the Six Nations. I’m sure the English will respect us and won’t switch their squad around so much from the Wales game before they played us earlier in the year. They made 11 changes back then and it bit them on the backside. I don’t think they will. If they do then great but I’m not really thinking about that.
“It’s going to be tough. Three games in ten to 12 days. In the heat. No matter how fit and well conditioned you are that’s going to take its toll. Especially when you’re a small team. Our training will have to be smart.”
It is a tough, competitive section and the young Scots face a tough task to emulate last year’s excellent best-ever fifth placing in Georgia.
“Top eight obviously the target,” said Redpath. “If we can win two out of three, then the fourth game, we’ll see where that fifth game rocks up.”