RUGBY record-breaker Chris Paterson has given a resounding vote of confidence to his Edinburgh successor when predicting rookie internationalist Tom Brown “will be there for a long time to come”.
As Paterson was preparing to hang up his boots after a 13-year pro career which yielded 109 caps it was significant that Brown, now 22, was being phased into Edinburgh’s line-up.
Of the concluding 11 games of last season Brown, in fact, started six and Paterson five but few could have predicted how well the one-time North Berwick, Edinburgh Accies and Currie prospect would seize his opportunities . . . except maybe Paterson who, throughout, was acting as an official mentor.
“I’m delighted for Tom Brown” said Paterson as he helped launch an RBS backed scheme to have 138 rugby clubs throw open their doors to local communities over the weekend of August 11 and 12.
Paterson added: “Tom had a fantastic season last year and the more that was asked of him the better he got, which I think is a brilliant sign.
“He came into the Edinburgh side and played well (then) he came into the Heineken Cup games and played well.
“He went on tour with Scotland which was a big step and gained his first cap against Australia in bad conditions and did really well.
“He is hugely committed, powerful, fast and strong as well as a good attacking player who is brave in defence; he will improve.”
Adding to the appeal of Brown is the versatility which saw him switch from full back to winger for what was Paterson’s swansong in the 44-21 victory over Treviso to bring the curtain down on the 2011-12 league season.
However, when it came to crunch selections for the two European knock-out clashes, against Toulouse and Ulster, it was Brown who got the nod over Paterson, who was typically magnanimous in acknowledging: “Having a taste of big games including an international will make Tom want to improve even more. Hopefully he’ll be there for a long time.”
Paterson has returned from a trip to New Zealand as part of his new role as an SRU goal-kicking coach and ambassador, where he checked on Gregor Hunter, the young Edinburgh stand off at Christchurch’s Lincoln University club as part of a Macphail scholarship.
And he predicts that Hunter could make the same impact on return that saw scholarship predecessors Harry Leonard and Grant Gilchrist help Edinburgh into the Euro quarter-finals.
“Gregor Hunter is playing week in, week out and basically running a back-line is bringing him out of his shell in a new environment.
“When he comes back, he was telling me before I left, he really wants a crack with Edinburgh.
“He wants to be like Harry and Grant and hit the ground running for the start of the season.”
The new season will feature a number of trial law amendments, some of which can be of particular benefit to Edinburgh and Scotland, who both embrace a free flowing style.
At the heart of the changes is a requirement for teams to play the ball within five seconds from the back of a ruck.
“A lot depends on how the five second law is interpreted; it is a bit of a minefield” says Paterson who, nevertheless, insists: “Scotland are best playing a quick game and that might suit us.
“Teams might have to be organised a bit more quickly when they are running the clock down.
“But the new law will reward positive play and that is a national trait in terms of the quick ruck ball we try to generate.”
In other words, a team that puts a premium on getting to the breakdown quickly can pressurise the opposition into playing the ball rather than delaying.
“It comes right back to individual skills – if you take ball into contact, place it properly and move it away there is not much the defence can do.
The beauty of the law amendments is that the game is continually evolving. Players have to find new skills and coaches have to find new techniques.”
Which pretty much sums up the challenge facing Chris Paterson next season.