Former Scotland scrum-half Bryan Redpath revealed yesterday that but for a pay-docking row, he would still be playing in France instead of moving to England. The ex-Melrose and Edinburgh Reivers player has joined up with Scots businessman Brian Kennedy in his bid to promote Sale Sharks as one of England’s elite clubs.
Redpath, who has signed a two-year contract, was one of four new signings announced yesterday by the Cheshire club’s director of rugby, Adrian Hadley, which brought to 12 the number of new players that Kennedy has recruited since he bought the club in April.
Canadian international Jon Thiel, who has accompanied Redpath from Narbonne, and New Zealanders Norm Rusk and Scott Lines were the others signed up at Heywood Road.
Redpath admitted that, far from being disenchanted, it was the docking of his salary which forced him to move back over the Channel.
"I loved French rugby, loved the lifestyle, got on well with players and was starting to pick up the language quite well, so it’s very disappointing to leave.
"But we lost a game to Grenoble, and the club took money off all the players, which I thought was wrong. I said to them, if there was a financial problem, they should say, but instead they just took 15% off everyone’s wages for the last two months of the season.
"And that was even though we won our next three games, beating Stade Francais, Perpignan and Brive, but it didn’tmatter. Apparently, it’s nothing new in France; I know they do that at other clubs as well, as a way of giving players a kick up the backside.
"Narbonne paid me back because I complained, but that wasn’t what I was wanting:I wanted a reassurance that this wouldn’t happen again - if I wasn’t fit enough, or conducting myself well enough, I would accept it, but I felt I was doing well and playing well and,basically, felt it was wrong to take someone’s salary now when rugby is no longer a hobby, but a job."
Redpath’s agent alerted clubs to the fact that he was looking for a move, and Harlequins were leading the chase until a few weeks ago.
"Harlequins were very honest with me and up front, saying they weren’t going to signanyone else, but they’d be happy to have me. I met Richard Hill and Mark Evans, and I can’t thank Mark, who helped me with contract problems, enough.
"But then Brian Kennedy called me. I had known himpersonally for a few years, and he presented an opportunity with several options, which included the offer of a job when my rugby career is over.
"It might be in rugby as a coach with Sale, working probably with youngsters, or with his Genesis Communications, but that - and the fact that Brian was prepared to fight Narbonne in the courts if they tried to block me breaking my contract with them - was what swayed me to come to Sale."
Redpath has quickly settled in his new home in Knutsford with wife Gill and their two young children, and the scrum-half is hoping that being back in the UK will enhance his chancesof returning to international contention after losing out to Andy Nicol last season.
"Scotland is another part of the reason why I came here.I know some people might question my commitment because I didn’t go on tour to New Zealand, but I still want to play for Scotland.
"I never went on tour because Narbonne pleaded with me to stay and try and help them into the top six in France. I also knew that with Andy going, he’d likely start the first Test, and so I’d have only a week really to try and win a starting place against the All Blacks. It was a verydifficult decision, and I know I probably disappointed some people, but after weighing everything up, mainly thepressure from Narbonne, I chose to stay with them."
Redpath hopes that decision will not be held against him.
He believes he has become a stronger player, mentally and physically since going to France and believes he will get even better at Sale particularly with the help of the Wigan fitness coach, Marty Hulme, who has joined the backroom staff. "That was another reason for joining Sale - I am confident I will improve as a player working with him."
Redpath recalled that he had been presented with chances to join Saracens and Bath four years ago, but did not go as he was contracted to the SRU, "but I’ve wanted the chance to prove myself in the English Premiership, and I can't wait for theseason to start now".
He stressed: "My ambitions are as high as they ever were, and I have to just wait and see where they take me. If it doesn’t get me back into the Scotland squad, that’s the way it goes - rugby moves on, and I won’t feel bitter about it. But I feel I have to make it work here, and prove to people, particularly in England, that I'm a better player than some might think."
Scotland stand-off Duncan Hodge has been ruled out of Edinburgh Reivers’ match against Bath tomorrow.
It was revealed last night that he will be returning to Edinburgh today to consult a specialist over a shoulder injury.
Reivers team manager Ian Rankin said: "It’s not new:Duncan has had a small shoulder problem since the New Zealand tour, and it’s nothing serious. But the specialist can see him on Friday, and we are keen to try and establish exactly what the problem is. It would have to be something extraordinary to keep him out of our match against Ulster nextFriday night, though."
The Reivers will play Keynsham and Bath in a triangular tournament at Keynsham tomorrow afternoon before returning to Scotland on Saturday.