Chris Paterson To Retire From International Rugby

Chris Paterson, the most capped Scotsman in the history of the game, is to retire from international rugby with immediate effect. In a stellar 12-year international career, Paterson wrote his name into the annals of Scottish Rugby by breaking just about every conceivable record. His size eight and a half right boot was the most consistently prolific weapon in Scotland’s arsenal for a decade.

Yet for a man that was 12-and-a-half stone his ability to excel against the 6ft 5ins, 18st monsters that now regularly appear in back divisions, was a source of equal pleasure.
 

Chris Paterson in action in his last Scotland appearance at Murrayfield

In an exclusive interview with www.scotlandrugbyteam.org Paterson said: “I’ve always said I wanted to bow out at the highest level of the game, while I still had the ability to go on.

“It was a massive goal for me to play for Scotland at my fourth Rugby World Cup, especially after the injury on the day of my 100th cap.

“I did get to New Zealand, not only that, I felt I played well and my final game, against England at Eden Park, was a special occasion, a brilliant atmosphere and such an intense game.

“Since coming back (from the RWC) I’ve had a while to think about it and I believe now is the right time to make my decision, especially when I’ve still been playing well at that level.

“My biggest fear would be devaluing what I have achieved and devaluing the jersey.  You have to stop at some point and this is the right time for me.”

Paterson, who turns 34 in March, will continue to give his all to his club, Edinburgh Rugby, for the remainder of his contract, which concludes at the end of this season, although he does have the option to extend for one year.

The twin peaks of his achievements, statistically, are his caps and points for his country, 109 and 809, both records.

But for those of us who have been privileged to watch him go about his business, it’s the manner in which he has performed both on and off the pitch that has made the biggest impact – the ultimate model professional and ambassador for all that is good about Scottish rugby.

Mossy first toured with Scottish Schools in 1996 – the year after rugby was declared professional – and he was well on the way to qualifying as a PE teacher when he became a rugby pro.

His career, then, has been played out in the full glare of celebrity where the labels “star” and “hero” are liberally proffered and might turn many a player’s head.

He explained: “That’s just not me.  I’m aware people can change but I’ve always had old-fashioned values. At my first club, Gala, if you played well, you got a pat on the back, if not, you were soon told about it.

“So for me it’s always been important to deliver for my family and friends and for the supporters, to make them proud.”

Paterson has set goals throughout his career and has never been one for any hoo-ha but alongside his 100th cap, there are other obvious highlights.

“Everyone remembers their first cap.  My ambition was to experience what I’d watched both at Murrayfield and on the TV when I was growing up.  I wanted to know what that felt like and desperately wanted to make a good job of it and I’m so lucky to have done that 109 times.

“I also thoroughly enjoyed the Rugby World Cup in Australia in 2003. The whole experience in Australia was special.”

A young lad, on a family holiday to Queensland from south-coast Australia, Edward Ellice-Flint, ended up retrieving balls for Mossy during his kicking practice at Scotland’s training camp in Caloundra and it was symptomatic of Paterson’s approachability and the way in which he inspired countless young people that Ellice-Flint, an Aussie football fanatic, was soon asking if a great grandparent was enough to qualify for playing rugby for Scotland.

That tournament ultimately saw Paterson entrusted with the stand-off jersey that many argued he should have held throughout his career – surviving even a dunt on the head in the pre-match warm-up in the quarter-final against Australia- to continue his fine tournament with his first ever drop goal for Scotland.

While the debate raged about his credentials in the number ten jersey, Paterson largely kept his own counsel.  “Yes, I grew up as a stand-off but I’ve played most of my rugby in the back three and, whether it sounds cheesy or not, the truth is I would have played anywhere for Scotland.

“It’s not a topic that I have any regrets about.  My gut feel is that if I’d stayed at stand-off I don’t think I would have had over100 caps as you need to be in the (defensive) frontline a bit more at ten. I believe I’ve maximized what I could have done, had an amazing time and always given everything in representing my country,” he said.

As a keen student of the game Mossy knew his stats better than any journalist and he didn’t need telling of the sequences of unbroken success or, indeed, when he surpassed Gavin Hastings’ career record total for Scotland in the first Test of the 2008 summer tour to Argentina.   The next again game, in Buenos Aires, saw him surpass Scott Murray’s then record and become the most-capped Scotsman of all time.

He captained Scotland on twelve occasions, too, and it seemed was always one of the trusted lieutenants to whom a coach would turn.

His longevity in international rugby has been all the more remarkable when the era has been characterised by physicality, power and big athletes and his return from the kidney injury that he sustained on the day of his 100th cap against Wales, yet again epitomised his single-minded determination to strive for the next game and improvement.

“That’s always been my focus – to think about the next game.  Now I’ll be able to look back.  Ian McGeechan always said that as a player you don’t own the jersey, you just fill it for the time you’re lucky enough to have that duty and you seek to make the people who filled it before you proud and also your family, friends and supporters proud.

“I have to thank everybody that’s helped me along the way – from Gary Parker and Garry Callander, my first coaches at Gala, to all those at professional and representative level, especially Geech, Jim Telfer, Frank (Hadden), Mick Byrne and the current Scotland coaches.

“The absolute stand-out has been Rob Moffat.  He helped me through school and in my professional career and it didn’t matter whether Rob was my coach at Edinburgh or whether he was elsewhere.  He was always on the end of a phone if I needed to chat something through with him, an absolute inspiration.

“I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to many great players I’ve been proud and honoured to play alongside and those off the pitch who help to get a team ready, especially the medical teams led by Dr James Robson.

“Most of all I want to thank the supporters.  When I think of some of the cheers I’ve had at Murrayfield over the years I get goose-bumps, and I’ll never ever forget that feeling.”

Tributes to Paterson were led by SRU President Ian McLauchlan.  He said: “What an example Mossy has set over his years in a Scotland jersey.  Brave and dedicated, his consistency whether in goal-kicking, running in open play or cover-tackling has shone like a beacon.

“I wish him all the best in his future.  I know he’ll continue to give his all for Edinburgh and I very much hope that Scottish Rugby will be able to tap into his many qualities going forward.”

Scotland head coach Andy Robinson said: “What a fantastic career Chris has had for Scotland.  He should be celebrated as one of Scotland’s greatest ever internationalists.

“I respect his decision and thank him for all he has done.  Having coached against him, he was a player I always ear-marked as a real threat.  Coaching him has been a delight, primarily because of his many attributes, not least that constant desire to get better.”

The most-capped Scots woman player, Donna Kennedy (115 caps), said: “I totally admire the man. He’s been an outstanding figurehead on and off the field and a true role model for the sport. To gain one international cap is a great achievement – to reach 109 is outstanding.

“When you step into the international arena and maintain the level of career that Chris has had, including all the domestic games that he’s played throughout the last twelve years, it’s really remarkable. I totally understand the passion you have for playing for your country, how that feeling keeps you going and how hard it must have been for him to walk away from all that.

“Chris presented me with my 75th cap and I was so honoured – it’s something I’ll never, ever forget. I wish him all the best for the future.”

Rob Moffat, Paterson’s coach from his school days at Galashiels Academy, through to age-grade international and pro-team level, added: “Chris is the model professional with the sort of family support that means he would always have his feet on the ground.

“He never wants to be second, a real competitor.  For me, the biggest accolade I could give Chris over the last few years is his relentless determination to improve his game.

“At times over the last two to three years he has played the best rugby of his career.  He’s worked very, very hard and young people have to realise that, if it ever was the case, the days you could rely on natural ability alone, have long since gone.”

Scotland kicking coach, Duncan Hodge, was a team-mate alongside Paterson when Mossy won his first cap against Spain at Murrayfield in the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

Hodge said: “I first remember Mossy playing sevens at Melrose and it was obvious even then what a great footballer he was.

“I can’t remember there being any fuss or concern about Mossy when he won his first cap.  Nobody was saying ‘we’ll have to look after him’. There was just an appreciation that he would go out and do his job.”

Mike Blair, Paterson’s colleague with both Edinburgh and Scotland, said: "I regard myself as being very fortunate to have played the vast majority of my professional rugby career with Mossy for Edinburgh and Scotland."

"He is an incredibly competitive guy who still tops most fitness tests and I think it's great that he has been able to retire right at the top of the game and on his own terms as there is no doubt he could still play international rugby for a couple more years."

"I've enjoyed playing my rugby with Mossy because underneath all the dedication and training he plays the game with a smile on his face."

The last word goes to Mossy’s fellow Borderer, the second most-capped Scotland back and Scotland attack coach, Gregor Townsend.

He declared: “When I think of Chris, the words professionalism, competitor and humility are closely linked to how he has conducted himself over his illustrious career. I’d also add inspirational – as I can only imagine the many thousands of kids that have taken up the game in Scotland thanks to his exploits on the field and his exemplary demeanour off the field.

“The way he has dedicated himself to self-improvement has also inspired many of his teammates to raise their standards and ask themselves if they have done enough to reach their potential.

“He has always been one of the first out on the field at training full of positivity and enthusiasm, and definitely the last to leave the training field. This dedication in conjunction with a wonderful ability to focus his mind on the process transformed his goal-kicking. It is apt that two of the best goal-kickers in world rugby have announced their retirements from international rugby so close together.”

You can read a full tribute from Gregor on www.scotlandrugbyteam.org
 

Chris Paterson (Edinburgh Rugby)

Full back/wing/stand-off. Born: 30.3.78 in Edinburgh. Height: 6ft (1.83m). Weight: 12st 8lb (80kg).

The 2011 RBS 6 Nations Championship marked another glittering chapter in the superlative international career of Christopher Douglas Paterson. His conversion of a second-half try against Italy saw him top the 400 points mark in Six Nations matches. The previous year he broke the 750 points landmark for Scotland in all matches on the occasion of his 100th cap - scoring a conversion against Wales in the second match of the 2010 RBS 6 Nations Championship to bring his total to 752.

He recovered from a damaged kidney on that milestone occasion to return to international rugby as a second-half substitute in Scotland’s EMC Autumn Test triumph against South Africa in November 2010 and returned for Scotland's most recent internationals against Ireland, England and Italy in the 2011 RBS 6 Nations Championship and then the 2011 Rugby World Cup, his fourth, an unprecedented record for a Scot.

Against the English in the 6NC, Paterson showed that he could continue to cut the mustard with a glorious try-saving tackle against his opposite number, Ben Foden, repeating the same feat against Italy's Luke McLean.

Paterson broke two Scotland career records during the 2008 two-match Test series in Argentina. In the first Test, which Scotland lost 15-21 in Rosario, he passed Gavin Hastings’s record of 667 points for his country, and the second match of the series, which the Scots won 26-14, was Paterson’s 88th international, surpassing Scott Murray’s then cap record.

He went on to hoist his tally over 700 when he kicked a conversion and two penalty goals when he made a replacement appearance against Wales in the RBS Six Nations Championship match at Murrayfield in February 2009.

His tally now stands at 809 points. Only nine of those have come from drop goals, though none of those three scores has been so important that that with which he helped Scotland to a 9-8 victory when he made a replacement appearance against Australia in the Bank of Scotland Corporate Autumn Test at Murrayfield in November 2009.

He became Scotland’s most-capped back in playing in the RBS Six Nations Championship match against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in February 2008. It was his 83rd international, passing the record previously held by Gregor Townsend, who, like Chris, was a product of Galashiels Academy and Gala RFC, and he now has 109 caps.

Chris is only the second Scot to score 600 points for his country, a milestone he passed when he kicked all of the points in the 18-16 win in the 2007 Rugby World Cup match against Italy in St Etienne. Playing in his third Rugby World Cup, Chris had a 100% strike rate in that 2007 tournament with 17 goals (7 penalties and 10 conversions plus a try for a total of 46 points in five games), and he continued that 100% sequence with 16 successful kicks in 2008 RBS Six Nations matches - five against Wales four months later, three against Ireland, four in the Calcutta Cup win against England at Murrayfield, and four more against Italy.

He extended that perfect sequence to 36 goals before a penalty miss late in the first half in the Rosario international in Argentina. But his accuracy quickly returned, and by the end of the tour he had kicked 42 out of 43 since the start of the previous year’s RWC.

His record-breaking was a feature of the Murrayfield match against Ireland in March 2007 when he took his championship season’s points tally to 61 and his penalty-goal haul to 16, beating the previous bests by a Scot in the championship, both by Brendan Laney with 60 and 15 during the 2002 tournament.

Chris was Scotland’s captain throughout that championship, in which he scored 65 points, with a strike-rate of 88% (22 out of 25), including 100% in the games against Wales, Italy, and Ireland. Later in 2007 he moved from Edinburgh to Gloucester, though he returned to Edinburgh the following year. In 2006 his impeccable goal-kicking was a key factor in Scotland’s victory over England as he landed five penalties from five attempts.

His striking-rate for that Six Nations Championship was 17 successes out of 19 attempts (89%). Beginning with the conversion of his own try against Wales in February and including the 66-19 non-cap win against the Barbarians in May, Paterson was successful with 25 consecutive goal attempts for Scotland – remarkable consistency that ended only in the second Test against South Africa in June. He became the 19th Scot to reach the landmark of 50 caps when he faced South Africa at Murrayfield in 2004.

That year he also became the second highest-scoring Scot in a single match with 40 points (three tries, eleven conversions and one penalty) against Japan at McDiarmid Park in Perth. That tally also boosted Chris into second place as Scotland’s highest points-scorer of all time, surpassing Andy Irvine’s total of 273.

Chris, who was The Famous Grouse Player of the Year that season (2004-2005), has captained Scotland on 12 occasions, all five matches in the 2004 Six Nations and then seven games in the 2006-2007 season, and his versatility has led to his playing in five different positions for his country – 45 on one or other wing, 40 at full back, and 11 at stand-off as well as 13 replacement appearances. His participation in the 2004 Scotland summer tour was cut short when he sustained a serious facial injury in the Test match against Samoa in Wellington.

A compressed multiple fracture of the right cheekbone put him on the plane home to Scotland following surgery in Sydney, but he made a comeback in the opening match of the 2004 Abbey Autumn Tests at Murrayfield against Australia. Chris made a double-try start to Scotland’s 2003 World Cup campaign against Japan and crossed the line again in their next game against the USA.

He continued to take Scotland’s kicks throughout the tournament and became the major play-maker when he was fielded at stand-off for the matches against Fiji and Australia. He also scored 29 points including his tenth Test try on Scotland’s 2003 tour of South Africa, thus continuing the tremendous form he showed in that year’s Six Nations Championship. He was Scotland’s top points-contributor (50) in that competition, having landed 15 goals out of 18 attempts and added two tries to his haul over the five matches.

His 18 points against Italy – including his ninth Test try – also saw him become the 11th Scot to surpass 100 points in Test rugby. That was a follow-on from his new individual record for a Scot against Wales with his 20 points haul in that success.

He scored his first Test try for Scotland in the second Test of the 2000 summer tour to New Zealand and followed up with a cracking try in the 53-6 November win against the United States. His best international try, however, came in the February 2001 Six Nations Championship draw with Wales, featuring blistering pace and sidestep as he stormed in from halfway.

Against Ireland in September 2001, Chris was chosen on the wing for the first time at full international level, and he marked that game with assured goal-kicking and punting and intelligent footballing skill. In all, Chris played in five matches on the 2000 New Zealand tour, contributing 21 points (including two tries) to the success against East Coast/Poverty Bay.

In 1999 he made his international debut as Scotland’s full back in the World Cup win over Spain and was in the same No.15 shirt for his Six Nations debut against France in March 2000. Having started both schools and club rugby as a stand-off, he was full back against Mpumalanga on Scotland’s 1999 tour to South Africa.

He progressed to selection for the tour via the Scottish Schools and Scotland's under-19 and under-21 teams. His four under-19 internationals were all in the 1997 FIRA World Junior Championship in Buenos Aires. In his three Scotland A games he has scored 51 points.

A product of Galashiels Academy, Chris made his debut in senior club rugby as an 18-year-old against Kelso in September, 1996. Against the same opponents, he scored the winning try and the clinching drop goal in Gala's victory in the 1999 Scottish Cup final at Murrayfield.

Chris became the first Scottish player to appear in 50 Heineken Cup matches (44 for Edinburgh, 6 for Gloucester) when Edinburgh won against Castres in October 2008: it was also the first time a Scottish team had won a Heineken game in France. He joined Edinburgh Reivers in season 1999-2000, though previously he had made two appearances for Glasgow Caledonians, for whom he had a notable debut against Ulster in September 1998, when he broke from almost his own goal-line to run more than 80 metres before delivering the scoring pass.

International record

109 caps.  1999 – RWC - [Sp]. 2000 – F W E NZ1 NZ2 USA A Sam. 2001 – F W E It I NZ. 2002 – E It I F W C USA R SA Fj. 2003 – I F W E It SA1 SA2 It(r) W(r) I RWC - [J USA F Fj A]. 2004 – W E It F I Sam A3 J A4 SA. 2005 – F I It W E R Arg Sam NZ. 2006 – F W E I It SA1 SA2 R(r) PI A. 2007 – E W It I1 F I2 SA RWC - [Por(r) R NZ It Arg]. 2008 – F(r) W I E It Arg1 Arg2 NZ SA. 2009 – W(r) F(r) It(r) I E Fj(r) A(r) Arg(r). 2010 – F W SA (r). 2011 – I E, It I2 RWC – [R G(r) Arg E]. Points: 809 – 22 tries, 170 penalties, 90 conversions, 3 drop goals.