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Chris Paterson spent years waiting for some help in attack, then three bodies came along at once

There was never much chance that such a famously clean-living fellow as Chris Paterson would spend his retirement years in a spiral of decline, staggering between the bookies and the boozer, but you'd think he would still allow himself a little time off before settling into life as a former player.

Paterson says he loves watching Stuart Hogg just to see the 'look of determination on his face'. Picture: PA
Paterson says he loves watching Stuart Hogg just to see the 'look of determination on his face'. Picture: PA

As it is, Paterson's diary is probably fuller than it ever was. Less than a year after hanging up his boots for the last time, the 34-year-old's working life is a busy patchwork of coaching, mentoring, media and ambassadorial duties, a pattern known as portfolio employment in some circles – or a bit of this and that in others.

In time, one or other component of the mix may come to dominate but, for the moment, the former wing/full-back/fly-half is simply relishing his discovery that life can indeed be a richer and more colourful tapestry than the one he knew in his dozen years as a professional rugby player.

After all, Paterson made no secret of his apprehension about what the future might bring when asked to broach the subject during the evening of his playing career. Age did not wither him to any conspicuous extent, but rugby's Peter Pan finally called it a day as far as the international game was concerned in December 2011, then took his leave of Edinburgh a few months later.

So was he gripped by existential angst when he looked in a mirror and realised the bloke looking back at him was not a rugby player anymore? Only briefly. "I think it was a fear of the unknown I felt more than anything else," he explains. "It's normal to fear the future but once it becomes the present you just get on with things and deal with it.

"Yes, I was concerned about what it would be like, but the fear evaporated pretty quickly. I'm lucky to be so busy with everything I do. I spend a lot of time with Glasgow and Edinburgh, a lot of it supporting Duncan Hodge with his work with the kickers.

"I also do a lot of skills work specific to the back three and I'm mentoring some of the young professionals as well. When I'm not doing that, I get round the clubs which is something I really love doing. I've been all over the country already, up as far as Inverness and Shetland. It's pretty wide-ranging, it's just about trying to grow the game and get people involved."

You could argue that Paterson was a pretty good ambassador for rugby even before the SRU made the role official. His record-setting achievements – 109 caps, 809 points – were impressive enough, but the Borderer's all-round demeanour, his work ethic and his self-effacing good humour were exemplary characteristics as well. Frankly, you would travel far and fruitlessly if you set out to find anyone in the sport with a bad word to say about him.

So here's one: his timing is rubbish. Having played through an era in which Scottish back play was not exactly renowned for its penetrative qualities, Paterson drew down the curtain on his career just at the point when some seriously good players were about to burst on the scene. What would he have given to be part of the Scotland back three of today? Surely, he would have relished the current willingness to bring the strike runners into play?

So he's jealous, then? "Not at all," Paterson laughs. "You make the most of the opportunities you get and I think I did that. I really like the way Scotland are playing at the moment; they know they've got some firepower out there and it's good to see them moving the ball as they have been doing. Yes, it's more open than some recent performances, but there were plenty of times when I was involved when we played a pretty open style as well. I remember the games out in South Africa in 2003 and the warm-up games for the World Cup that year, for instance. That was a pretty bold way of playing as well.

"So I'm just enjoying it and it was great to see them get their reward against Italy on Saturday, because one thing I do know is how much hard work goes in to getting a performance like that."

When time comes to an end and the universe implodes in a puff of cosmic dust, there will still be a couple of Scottish rugby fans somewhere having a vigorous and utterly inconclusive argument about which position fitted Paterson best. To some, he will always be the best fly-half we never quite had, his few outings in that berth being at times and in teams where he was never likely to thrive. Latterly, of course, he was mostly deployed at full-back, a background that gives him a certain authority on the matter of the latest Scot to fill that berth.

Stuart Hogg has lit up the rugby firmament with his tries against England and Italy this month, but he was a fixture on Paterson's radar screen long before that. He may have the maroon blood of Gala coursing through his veins but, when his old Netherdale mate Richie Gray, who was running a rugby skills course at Borders College, asked him to cast an eye over young Hogg of Hawick a few years ago, he eagerly agreed.

Paterson says: "Richie told me that he was something special and you could see that even then. He was just 16 or 17 and he was really thin at the time, or shelpit as we say in the borders, but his talent was obvious.

"He was brought up in rugby and he knew the game. We had some runarounds and I couldn't get close to him. From that point on, I kept a close eye on what he was doing. He really is a fantastic player.

"The good thing is that he keeps getting better. His decision-making is improving with it. That's important especially at his stage. People forget that he still just 20 years old, but I don't think he made one poor decision in his game against England.

"He has matured as a player and a person, but I still like to see that look of determination on his face. Having a burning desire is one part of being a good player. I think it is brilliant that he has that passion, and even that anger at times."

The irony of it all is that Hogg now seems to be a front-runner for the Lions selection that eluded Paterson. It was a travesty that Paterson was not chosen for the 2005 tour to New Zealand, but not exactly a surprise as Clive Woodward's stewardship of that venture was a catalogue of calamities from start to finish.

Anyway, he's not bitter. "You have to move on," he says. "Of course, it was sad in a way to come to the end of my career, but I had had a great time for about 12 years and it would have been selfish to want more. I'm just grateful for what I had."

RBS are giving fans in Glasgow the chance to get close to the Six Nations trophy this Saturday. They're taking the silverware to the Gordon Street branch of RBS between 11am-1pm, where supporters can have photos taken with it and enter a draw to win tickets to a Six Nations game at Murrayfield. The trophy will then be on show at Whitecraigs v Cartha Queen's Park in the Championship (3pm) where there will be more photos, prize draws and the chance to chat to Chris Paterson.

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