Six Nations: Bright, mature Cameron Redpath could be solution for Scotland at inside centre

Bath thought enough of Cameron Redpath to pay a reported £100,000 to prise him from a long-term contract at Sale Sharks 11 months ago. And Eddie Jones thought enough of the inside centre to name him in his full England squad to tour South Africa in 2018, just weeks after he had left school.

Cameron Redpath during a training session with England at Twickenham last year. The centre has now switched to Scotland. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Cameron Redpath during a training session with England at Twickenham last year. The centre has now switched to Scotland. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Fortunately for Scotland, a knee injury put paid to Redpath’s jaunt to Johannesburg and the inside centre continued his international rugby education with the England Under-20 side.

A year later he scored a try against their Scotland counterparts as they were swatted aside 45-7 in a Six Nations Under-20s Championship match at Franklin’s Gardens.

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As painful as the defeat was, Redpath remained up for grabs. In the parlance of international rugby, he had yet to be “captured”.

Enter Gregor Townsend.

“Selling is, I suppose, the job of coaches these days,” admitted the Scotland boss after naming Redpath in his squad for the Six Nations, with the first match against England at Twickenham two weeks on Saturday.

“You sell a game-plan, you sell opportunities to play for clubs or countries to other players, whilst being as truthful as possible.”

It’s quite a coup for Townsend and Scotland.

Cameron Redpath, playing for England, scores a try against Scotland during the 2019 Under-20 Six Nations Championship match at Franklin's Gardens. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It will also come as a relief to Redpath’s father, Bryan, the 60-times capped former Scotland captain.

“He knows my feelings,” said Redpath senior in an interview with The Scotsman last summer. “I’d want him to play for Scotland. And he’s not tied to anything yet so never say never, as they say. But, in the end, it will be his choice to make, not mine.”

In praising his leadership qualities, Townsend confirmed that the decision had been very much the player’s.

“He’s a bright lad, a mature lad – he’s already in the leadership group at Bath – and he’s made up his own mind,” said the Scotland coach.

Cameron's father Bryan Redpath won 60 caps for Scotland and played at three Rugby World Cups. Picture: Nick Laham/Getty Images

“He’s fortunate in that he’s got a father who knows international rugby and coached Scotland Under-20s a couple of years ago so is still very close to the modern game. So, he can ask advice on things on Scotland around the camp and the type of rugby we look to play. But I imagine he’s made that assessment himself.

“We certainly appreciate and value players who are decision makers, are highly skilled, are competitive and who can lead, and Cam is one of those players. He has shown already this year really good ability regularly for Bath. There are areas of his game to improve like any player, but he’s someone who would fit in with what we are looking for from our backline players.”

Born in France while his father was playing for Narbonne, Redpath grew up in England and was educated at the famed Sedbergh School in Cumbria, which counts former England captain Will Carling among its illustrious alumni, and King’s School in Macclesfield.

He came through the Sale Sharks academy and played 22 games for their first team before the move to Bath.

Gregor Townsend has named a 35-man Scotland squad for the Six Nations. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Inside centre remains a work in progress for Townsend. James Lang, Sam Johnson and Duncan Taylor were all tried there during the autumn but none made the No 12 jersey their own, and Johnson is not included in the Six Nations squad.

Another problem position is hooker, with injuries conspiring to rob Scotland of both their frontline No 2s, Stuart McInally joining Fraser Brown on the sidelines with a neck issue.

“Unfortunately, it is very similar to Fraser’s injury,” said Townsend. “There’s a difference with it, but similar in terms of the disc in there which is causing him a bit of pain, and a similar length of recovery. It will be months rather than weeks.

“Fraser obviously injured his in the Ireland game so he’s already quite far down the track in terms of his recovery, and things are going well.

“But Stuart is just starting that process and is still in a lot of pain. It’s likely he’ll miss the whole of the championship."

George Turner will step in at hooker, with support coming from the inexperienced trio of Grant Stewart, Dave Cherry and Ewan Ashman, the latter two uncapped.

Richie Gray is back in the Scotland squad after impressing for Glasgow in the 1872 Cup. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Injury has also deprived Scotland of the services of Adam Hastings. The stand-off is still recovering from the damage he sustained to his shoulder in the win over Wales but Townsend is hopeful he could return for the final two games of the Championship, against Ireland and Italy at Murrayfield in March.

Richie Gray is back in the fold after impressing for Glasgow in both 1872 Cup matches against Edinburgh, his first games after a long spell out with concussion.

There is also a return for Gary Graham, the son of another former Scotland international who was lured away from England. The back-row forward played for Scotland in the 2019 Six Nations and has been in fine form for Newcastle.

Notable absentees from the 35-man squad include Glasgow centre Johnson, Edinburgh lock Ben Toolis, Exeter scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Northampton centre Rory Hutchinson and London Irish flanker Blair Cowan.

There is a call up for Alex Craig, the Gloucester blindside, who joins Redpath, Cherry and Ashman as the newbies in the squad.

Townsend explained that some of the selection decisions had been shaped by World Rugby rules.

“The Six Nations is different from Autumn Nations – we are not able to keep our players in a group throughout the tournament,” said the coach.

“Our players based in England will have to leave on the Wednesday of our camp to go back to play for their clubs next week, and if they are not in our 23 for England then they will have to go on the Tuesday or Wednesday back to their club.

“That’s normal practice – it’s called Regulation Nine of World Rugby’s directives. It just makes it more challenging during this period when we’re dealing with Covid, players leaving environments and coming back.”

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