The Making Of… Cameron Redpath

For many, representing their country at the Guinness Six Nations is the very pinnacle of rugby union and a dream come true.

For many, representing their country at the Guinness Six Nations is the very pinnacle of rugby union and a dream come true.

But in order to play in the six iconic stadiums in which the Championship is played, there is a lot of work and sacrifice that goes on behind the scenes for years.

Players and parents will attend training sessions far and wide, make sacrifices to move away from home and generally give an awful lot to make it to the very highest level.

That is what this series is about – how some of the Guinness Six Nations’ rising stars have reached this point in their journey to international stardom.

In the first of the series we look at Scotland centre Cam Redpath, who at just 23 has four caps to his name, including a standout performance in victory against England at Twickenham on debut.

From those that knew him best, this is the making of Cam Redpath.

Born in Narbonne, France in December 1999, Redpath was always destined for greatness.

His father, Bryan, is a legend of the game in Scotland, making 60 caps across a decade between 1993 and 2003.

He was plying his trade for RC Narbonne when Cam was born, immediately making him a dual-eligible player from birth.

Redpath senior then made the move back across the Channel, joining Sale Sharks a year after Cam was born.

It was back in England that Redpath junior first got involved in rugby, starting out at Knutsford Rugby Club minis.

His rugby journey had begun and it wasn’t long until another rather iconic rugby figure was heavily involved.

“He was born in France and then we went to Sale, so he took up mini rugby at Knutsford Rugby Club which was great,” said Bryan.

“He won the Jonny Wilkinson kick competition there and we have this amazing photo of that.”

Bryan hung up his boots in 2005 following victory over Pau in the European Challenge Cup final and took up a position with Gloucester as backs coach, before becoming head coach in 2009.

For Cam, this meant moving south from Manchester and joining Cheltenham College Prep School, which saw his sporting journey branch out.

“He was always into his sports, he played football a lot, he was at West Brom academy when I was at Gloucester, so he has always been athletically fortunate,” said Bryan.

“He ran national cross countries in Cardiff, 3k, 800m, 400m and he was quick enough to win the sprints as well.”

It was at Cheltenham Prep where Cam met his first influential coach, Matt Dawson (not to be confused with the former England scrum-half), who coached him at under-12 level.

Dawson said: “The best thing I remember about Cameron – which has come from Bryan, who is an absolute gent – is that he always played with a smile on his face. He didn’t take it too seriously.

“He played all sports as well, which was great. He was playing football, hockey and obviously rugby too.

“He didn’t specialise until he got a bit older, and he always played as a free spirit so there was no pressure on him to perform.

“The reason Cam is so good is because the mantra he has always observed is to always make someone else look good. You see that now – from a very early age he was an unselfish player and he would put people in space.”

Cam was beginning to enjoy following in his father’s footsteps on the rugby field and but with football still on the agenda, it was time for him to make a decision.

Bryan added: “He was at West Brom for a year and a half, he loved it, but not as much as rugby.

“It was a bit of a drag driving up from Gloucester to Birmingham for training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“Because of his engine, he was a central midfielder and that helped him, but going up there was another level. I think he started to think it was a bit beyond him in some ways.”

Bryan returned to Sale as director of rugby in 2012, which saw the family move back to Manchester and Cam start out at King’s School Macclesfield at the age of 13.

At King’s, Cam was beginning to showcase his true potential and Jamie McGregor, his coach at under-13 and under-14 level, was responsible for these two years in Cam’s development.

He said: “When I met Cam, he had clearly just had a growth spurt and had not quite grown into his arms or his legs.

“On first meeting him, I thought we could be in for a bit of Bambi on ice type but he was very much not like that.

“As a rugby player, as a 12 or 13-year-old, it struck me that he ran hard and continued to run hard – he did not shy away from the contact.

“He was a cheeky chappie who was super respectful when he needed to be, but he was your typical 13-year-old at training when he thought you weren’t looking.”

At under-15 level, Cam’s ability was spotted and he represented Scotland at age-group level alongside fellow international Andy Christie and led by Northampton Saints centre Fraser Dingwall.

This was a true sign of the direction his rugby path was heading and in his final two years at King’s, John Percival, who also taught him geography, was in charge.

“Cam was always a decent kid, he was a sportsman, and he definitely sooner would have been outside than studying, but he was a decent student and he got through it,” said Percival.

“He always had a fair degree of humility, he listened, and he knew what he had to do. He was certainly not a wild kid and he appreciated the opportunities that his education offered him.

“As a rugby player, he was obviously very strong in his year group. He was quick, he was athletic and he had good skills.

“He came in and started playing 10, then we switched him into the centres which probably suited his strengths a little bit better.

“I had a craving to play him at full-back, we played him there a bit but by then his path in rugby had been decided and he wanted to play in the centres. I still maintain he would have made one hell of a full-back!”

In Cam’s final year at King’s, he played three years up, representing the first XV as a 15-year-old.

“He improved massively,” McGregor said. “He grew into his arms and legs and I remember seeing him play in his final game at King’s Mac when he played in the first team as a year 11.

“You would think a young boy would stick out but he really didn’t – he always had a rugby brain, even in the under-13s and under-14s.”

At 16, Cam made the move to one of the country’s most prestigious sporting schools, Sedbergh, which lists former England captain Will Carling, World Cup winner Will Greenwood and England internationals Phil Dowson and James Simpson-Daniel among its alumni.

Cam had committed to rugby as his path and believed Sedbergh was the place to hone his skills further.

“It was always what he wanted to do, he had seen me do it and he had seen me coaching, so when he went up to Sedbergh that was his plan – ‘I am going to play professionally’,” continued Bryan.

“Fortunately, he went to Sedbergh with some other really good friends, Bevan Rodd, Josh Hodge, Ali Crossdale and people like that that have kicked on.”

Those mentioned have all made it professionally, with Rodd earning two England caps and Hodge and Crossdale currently playing for Exeter Chiefs and Perpignan respectively.

While at Sedbergh, Cam met arguably the most important figure in his rugby journey other than Bryan – the school’s director of rugby, Simon Mulholland.

He said: “He was great from minute one to the finish. He had a real presence about him. As soon as he entered the environment, it was like he had been there since year nine.

“When you get to know him, you understand why. He is such a lovely boy, he was a pretty great fit for us straight away.

“One thing with Cam, and it happened from day one, he didn’t want me to tell him the things he was good at, he wanted to know the things he needed to improve on. He was not satisfied.

“Everyone likes a pat on the back, and he liked that, but he wanted it when it was deserved rather than just saying ‘you are good at this’ when he knew he was good at it.”

Redpath went on to feature for England Under-18s as well as becoming Sale’s youngest debutant at just 17, a meteoric rise which came as no surprise to Mulholland.

“Honestly, hand on heart, this is exactly where I thought he would be – he is the best player I have ever seen at this level,” he said.

“Those players who are elite at this level, they naturally have time on the ball, they can do things to change the game, almost at will, but they are just unbelievable competitors and Cam had it all.

“At times it was scary what he could do to opposition defenders, how he could manipulate defenders to put teammates in a better position.

“He is exactly where I thought he would be.”

Redpath went on to win the 2018 Rosslyn Park Sevens competition with Sedbergh and having trained with England at the age of just 17, Eddie Jones called him into his squad to tour South Africa while still a schoolboy.

He never went on the tour after suffering cartilage and ACL injuries but it was a sign of just how highly he was rated.

Redpath had become a first-team player at Sale and played for England in both the Under-20 Six Nations (where he scored against Scotland) and the 2019 Under-20 World Cup.

He subsequently chose to leave Sale to join Bath, forming his own path away from close friend Rodd and academy players he had grown up with, including the Curry brothers.

He excelled at Bath but having not been picked by Jones again, he was given the opportunity to continue Bryan’s legacy and ahead of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, he opted to play for Scotland.

“It’s all about him, it’s not about me and the Scotland thing,” said Bryan.

“Of course, I am proud as punch for him that he is playing for Scotland, but it was Cam’s decision and it always was.”

If Bryan was happy to let Cam choose his own path, his former coach McGregor was always hopeful he would choose Scotland.

He said: “He picked the right country, that is all I can say. I am from Edinburgh, and I would like to say it is probably mostly down to me he chose Scotland, nothing to do with Bryan or anything…!”

In Round 1 of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, Redpath made his Scotland debut against England at Twickenham, facing his current Bath teammate Ollie Lawrence, also on debut.

It proved to be a day of significance for the then 21-year-old, who produced an assured display as Scotland won 11-6, defeating England at Twickenham for the first time since 1983.

After years of hard work and dedication – a star was born.