Just as Jonny Wilkinson has announced he will no longer be playing international rugby, so does the other most consistent kicker of a generation. Chris Paterson is saying goodbye to the Thistle.
Ever since the Gala boy made his debut against Spain in the ’99 World Cup we have had an infatuation with ‘Mossy’. It did not matter if he was playing on the wing, at full-back or even at stand-off: the fans loved him.
He amassed 109 caps for Scotland, 96 of which were starts, and he scored 809 points. Many of these points were scored as he was declared the World’s most accurate kicker. In recent days Paterson has been struggling with hip and leg injuries, though, and this has hampered his chances of kicking efficiently. At 33-years-of-age, having already played at 4 World Cups and having achieved so much it seems he has now decided that others could be best used for Scotland if he is not the go-to kicker and so has called time.
How will we remember Chris Paterson?
For me it is the way he embodied Scotland’s underdog spirit. Written off time and time again because of his slightness or lack of strength he kept popping up in big games with big scores, tackles or crucial kicks. He would be hurt on occasion, but he always got back up. He didn’t complain, he didn’t shirk duty, he didn’t think of himself. He just did what Scotland needed him to do and the fans loved him for it.
I had the privilege, once, of being in a team-run huddle with him the Thursday before an Edinburgh game. As my first ‘first team’ experience, I was seeing a lot of things I had not expected. Paterson, who had seemed to me to be passive, relaxed and efficient without fanfare up until this point, suddenly burst into life. He spoke eloquently and passionately about what he hoped to get from the coming game of rugby. Everyone listened.
It is this sort of passion and commitment that saw him captain Scotland 12 times and earned the respect of those he played with. It is also why he is Scotland’s most capped player of all time. Win or lose he was there. Doing the job.
Often it was whichever job was put in front of him, and he was shuffled around from wing to fullback with only the merest dalliance at standoff, a position that many felt might have been his true calling.
So what now? Well he is still at Edinburgh, the team he has been synonymous with since he returned after a short spell with Gloucester. He will still be whizzing about his eyrie, Murrayfield. He will still be organising from the back, in black. That hasn’t changed.
Scottish rugby has certainly changed as of today, though.
Here are some of his best bits as uploaded by the SRU:
What is your favourite Chris Paterson moment for Scotland?
International record: 109 caps. Points: 809 – 22 tries, 170 penalties, 90 conversions, 3 drop goals.