CAMERON REDPATH, the son of former Scotland captain and current Scotland Under-20s coach, Bryan, has been named in the senior England squad to tour South Africa this summer.
The selection comes just days after Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend spoke of his hopes that the 18-year-old schoolboy might be persuaded at some point in the future to forsake the rose for the thistle.
Redpath was born in France while his father was playing for Narbonne; and he has lived in England since before his first birthday, after the old man moved to play his final few seasons at Sale Sharks, then coach at Gloucester, Sharks and Yorkshire Carnegie. He is in his final year at Sedbergh School and is a member of the Sale Sharks academy. He has turned out for the Sharks in the Anglo-Welsh Cup this season but is yet to play at Aviva Premiership level.
The youngster represented Scotland Under-18s back in 2016, before switching allegiances to play for England at both Under-18s and Under-20s level this season. He was expected to be involved in the second of those teams’ Junior World Cup campaign this summer – which would have opened up the tantalising prospect of father and son trying to out-fox each other when the Auld Enemy clash in the pool stage of that tournament on 7th June.
That is not going to happen now, which will perhaps come as a minor relief to Redpath senior, who spoke on Monday about the challenge of sending a team out to play against his own son. But, looking at the bigger picture, you get the impression that the former scrum-half will have mixed emotions about his son’s shock call-up.
“He knows exactly what my views are. Myself, my wife and the broader family would love him to be in a Scotland jersey,” said Redpath on Monday. “There have been conversations between him and Gregor about that. He [Townsend] came down to see Byron McGuigan at Sale and popped in to see us and I went to the game with him. He and Cam were together for quite a while, so it was good. They swapped numbers and Gregor is always there to keep in touch with him.
“But he’s also had five England full sessions with the national team, he trained at that open session at Twickenham with them, and he’s in another little group underneath that which they see him coming through.
“It’s hard. He was born in France and has only ever lived in England, but [he] has a lot of respect for the Scottish mind-set and how they are playing now. His head has been turned quite a bit by that whole set-up in England – the opportunities and how they manage everything – it looks great, it sounds great and the club like it because it is potentially revenue for them to claw back through EQP and EPS [elite player squad].
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“Suddenly there’s over £200,000 per year back into the club if he plays full-time for 12 months. So, I can understand that side of it. But with my hand on my heart I would love him to play for Scotland.”
When Townsend was asked on Tuesday whether he had considered inviting Redpath to tour with the senior Scotland group this summer, the coach explained that it was not the right time to force the issue. With the benefit of hindsight, it looks distinctly like Townsend already knew what was in the pipeline.
“I don’t think it would be right to take him on a tour like this. Giving him too many decisions to make wouldn’t be fair on him,” said the coach, who played alongside Bryan 51 times in Scotland colours.
“He’s playing for his school, he’s playing for Sale, he played for England Under-18s and England Under-20s this year. If that senior England team are seriously considering taking him on tour, that’s their decision. But he’s got a big season next year as he leaves school and tries to improve as a professional rugby player.
“I’m sure he’s going to have a busy summer, whatever tour he’s on, whether he’s with England Under-20s in the World Cup or if Eddie Jones takes him to South Africa with the England team. Of course, if he becomes a better player, which we all hope he does, and gets on to the horizon of playing international rugby, I would love him to play for Scotland like his dad did.”
This call-up to England’s senior touring squad does not close the door on Redpath ultimately becoming a Scotland player because he will only be ‘captured’ if he makes it onto the field. With Owen Farrell, George Ford, Alex Lozowski, Danny Cipriani, Henry Slade and Ben Te’o all on the trip, there is no shortage of more experienced options for England coach Eddie Jones at both stand-off and inside-centre for the three-match series.
“Cameron is an exciting young player with great potential to play for England. He has lovely skills, runs straight and has a nice feel for the game. He is an exciting player for us,” said Jones at yesterday’s squad announcement.
“There are about 20 players we weren’t able to consider for selection and so we have some holes in the squad. We felt it is the appropriate time to rest players because the priority is to win the World Cup and we have stated that very clearly,“he added.
At least Gary Graham, son of George – another Scotland stalwart rom around the turn of the century – was not named in the squad. The 25-year-old, who represented Scotland at Under-20s level and now turns out for Newcastle Falcons, was part of England’s training squad during the Six Nations but has struggled with injury in recent months. The flanker appears fairly committed to pursuing an England cap, but as Townsend pointed out on Tuesday, nothing is set in stone until they get game time at international level.
“Just now it looks like they’ve [both] chosen to go down the English route. Whether they’re capped in the next 12 months, that’s down to their performances and the English coaches’ decisions,” he said.