Family to come first for Chris

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A SEVEN-MONTH-OLD bundle of joy called Olivia partly underpins Chris Paterson’s decision to retire from international rugby after a Scottish record 109 caps.

While making it clear daughter Olivia’s arrival earlier this year was not so decisive a factor as the desire to quit on his own terms, the Edinburgh star admitted: “It does make it more difficult to be away from home when you have a wee one but the support my wife Claire gives me is fantastic.

“All the way through, I have had nothing less than total support from Claire.” Returning to the topic of his baby daughter, 33-year-old Paterson’s eyes spark as he says with obvious pride: “Olivia came to the Scotland versus Ireland pre-World Cup fixture. She won’t remember anything about it, of course, but she has been to Murrayfield when her dad was playing.”

Let it be noted for the benefit of Olivia in years to come that her dad once elicited a massive roar of approval from a capacity Murrayfield international crowd for the single act of standing up from the substitutes’ bench and acknowledging his name being read out by the announcer.

How the adoring masses will miss him as he retreats into the bosom of a family that has always been nothing if not supportive.

“My dad, who is now retired from McQueen’s Printers in Galashiels, was a scrum-half which is the position from where my older brother reached Scotland under-21 level,” said Paterson, whose late uncle, Duncan, represented Scotland at scrum-half before going on to become manager of the 1991 World Cup team which reached the semi-finals.

“Just being at family parties or Christmas gatherings sometimes with Dunc and his family, well, the chat would always turn to rugby.

“In Gala, things tended to revolve around the rugby club and that was the environment I grew up in. I was helped, too, by the likes of Johnny Gray and Johnny Brown, both good rugby men who were my first coaches at under-10 level.

“I don’t know when I realised I could have a career out of rugby, but I reckon that although my generation as the early professionals had it different because for a spell we were wondering if we were doing too much training or not enough, it was good to have had three years in a Gala team straight from school.

“There I played with internationalists such as Gregor Townsend and against the likes of Tom Smith, Rob Wainwright, Glen Metcalfe and Tommy Hayes as well as the Melrose contingent of Carl Hogg, Bryan Redpath and Craig Chalmers.

“So I came into the professional game prepared rugby-wise but probably under prepared in a physical dimension.

“It’s a wee bit different now as players coming in are more physical and have to get up to speed straight away.

“The rugby knowledge I picked up playing for a Gala side that had been successful helped whereas now players learn in a new environment with new people.

“It was as soon as I gave up my [PE] studies to go headlong into professional rugby I thought ‘right, I’m going to make this a success.’

“You need a bit of luck and a bit of help along the way but I still see it as a duty, a sport I enjoy and in which I want to do well.

“Giving up my PE degree in the final year . . . what a scary thought looking back.

“Yes, it was difficult to do but another thing that helped was foreign guys like the Blackadders and Laneys coming here from New Zealand.

“They had been professional and knew what the structure of the week should be. Plus a lot of good work done by the SRU in going out to look around.

“Back in those days I remember Edinburgh winning a lot at home and being poor on the road.

“Then we progressed from winning at home to being competitive on the road to today where the team feel confident of winning wherever we are.”

Paterson confirmed that instead of signing for Edinburgh he had options elsewhere.

“I had chance to go to Northampton or Newcastle but in an academy role. My drive has been playing for Scotland and Scottish rugby and hopefully that can continue.”

Paterson did have a year out of Scottish rugby at Gloucester. Asked why, he answered: “Things were a bit difficult at Edinburgh with the change of ownership.

“At Gloucester, one of the best tries I ever scored was in a derby with Bath.

“I missed a couple of kicks which has probably been the legacy down there but I learned a lot from good people and ended up with a lot more experience back at Edinburgh where things had changed in respect of ownership.” That was a clear reference to the brief but turbulent era with Bob Carruthers in charge.

But don’t expect Paterson to dish the dirt if ever an autobiography is penned by the man who goal-kicked his way through the entire 2007 World Cup campaign – one of four he experienced – without missing a single shot at goal – 17 from 17.

“I’ve had a couple of opportunities to do a book but I don’t feel while I’m still playing is the right time.

“I’m not a controversial person but maybe it could be done in a way that puts something back. I wouldn’t rule it out,” he says.

Little Olivia Paterson would surely love a formal record of her father’s glittering career which yielded an unprecedented 809 points for Scotland.

Sure of special mention, too, would be the players Paterson picked out as the best he has played with – and against.

“Gregor Townsend is definitely one of my best teammates along with Glenn Metcalfe, who was a great help to me as a young player. Opponents? Jonah Lomu, for his skill as well as his size, was someone admired greatly and his fellow All Black, Christian Cullen, too. Also, I rate Jonny Wilkinson of England very highly for his tactical nous and, although I was slightly surprised that he had retired last week from international rugby because he is a year younger than me, I know how he feels.

“I am just delighted I could make the decision myself and look forward to being a supporter and getting behind the guys on a Saturday in February . . . then waking up in the morning after an international feeling less sore.”

Memo to Olivia: Daddy’s home from the most remarkable Scottish international rugby career.