CHRIS PATERSON has made it clear his future lies in coaching as he prepares to enter a first full month as a retired rugby player.
The 109-times capped Paterson, who hung up his boots after Edinburgh defeated Treviso on May 5, is currently in New Zealand on a learning brief at the renowned Canterbury International High Performance Unit attached to the crack Crusaders Super 15 team.
Speaking from Christchurch, he summed up the purpose of the visit which was funded by a Macphail Scholarship. “My passion’s in coaching,” he said. “I studied physical education before I became a professional. . . . I want to get my tracksuit on and get out there.”
With a year left on his Murrayfield contract, SRU bosses, the Macphail Trust and Paterson put together a plan that sees him also serve as an ambassador, with officials having spoken warmly of the ex-utility back’s potential to open doors for the benefit of rugby.
But a designation as “specialist skills coach” appears to be where Paterson’s heart lies and, having agreed to bring back specialist information on behalf of his ex-colleagues, it seems he has been tapping into the knowledge that made Dan Carter the world’s No. 1 stand-off before injury deprived him of a place in the All Blacks World Cup-winning team.
The pair have been seen exchanging notes and, while Carter’s 1250 points from 85 Tests is superior to Paterson’s 809, Scotland’s all-time top scorer went from August 2007 until June 2008, a period which included a World Cup and Six Nations, without missing a single kick at goal – 36 in all.
“I suppose there’s no better place to start than coming here [to Canterbury] and getting some absolutely valuable experience,” said Paterson.
There are other familiar faces whose brains he’s been picking. “I worked with Toddy [Blackadder] in Edinburgh and with Dave Hewett, while Daryl Gibson’s got close links to Glasgow. Even Matt Mustchin, who’s the [club] coach at Christchurch was a team-mate at Edinburgh.
“There’s a lot of familiar faces and it’s been absolutely brilliant for me, the experience of being around this environment.”
Referring to how “open and willing” his hosts had been – he is staying with Canterbury coach Tabai Matson – Paterson said it was encouraging that “what we do is similar to what’s been done over here.”
But he insisted: “You are always learning and picking up new things.”
As well as soaking up tips, Paterson has also been passing on a few, having undertaken a goal-kicking clinic with Crusaders players Tom Taylor and Tyler Bleyendaal.
Meanwhile, SRU chief executive Mark Dodson and performance director Graham Lowe will meet Canterbury officials next month during Scotland’s southern hemisphere tour to reinforce links that currently see Scots youngsters Gregor Hunter and Jonny Gray playing locally under the supervision of SRU academy manager, Ben Fisher.
Canterbury charge for the privilege of attending their High Performance Unit, with manager John Haggart saying in a reference to recent earthquakes in the region: “The reality is we live in a commercial world, especially when you’ve been knocked around like we have in the last couple of years.”
But Hagart insisted his people could also learn a thing or two from Paterson and Fisher, who are from what he described as a “tier-one nation” in rugby.