Chris Paterson ends illustrious Scotland career

By Jim MasonBBC Scotland rugby reporter

The statistics are impressive. Scotland's record cap holder with 109, Scotland's record points scorer with 809 and, of course, appearing at four Rugby World Cup competitions, culminating in this year's tournament in New Zealand.

As the records show, Chris Paterson is a superlative goal-kicker, but it was his all-round game that endeared him to fans.

Time after time, he put his body on the line in the dark blue of Scotland. On the occasion of his 100th cap at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff against Wales, he suffered a ruptured kidney, an injury that nearly ended his career.

He recovered, however, and performed bravely in this year's Six Nations, pulling off try-saving tackles against England's Ben Foden and Italy's Luke McLean.

"That was a highlight and a lowlight," Paterson told BBC Scotland, reflecting on that landmark achievement.

"Starting on the Friday night, I got my shirt presented to me by the team. Everyone in the team had written a note to me.

"And then within 20 minutes of taking to the field I was in the back of an ambulance and in hospital for a week.

"My drive then became getting off that 100th cap mark."

Paterson made his debut as a replacement against Spain in 1999 and played under five head coaches, including the latest incumbent, Andy Robinson.

He also showed his versatility by playing at full-back, winger and fly-half for his country.

Indeed, large sections of the Scottish rugby community believed that Paterson should have been given more opportunity in the number 10 position. But successive Scottish coaches played him principally at 15.

Paterson puts his longevity in the game down to a number of factors.

"I've had a couple of bad injuries but on the whole I haven't missed too many games," he said.

"A lot of thanks go to the medical staff over the years, the guys who get you back on the field.

"I would like to think I worked hard as well, on injury prevention, on my diet, on my fitness, and hopefully that helped along the way."

Despite his relatively small stature, Paterson was a big player for Scotland. He was extremely quick and his rugby skillset was impressive. He rarely took the wrong option.

He played his final match for Scotland against England at Eden Park, Auckland, in October. Scotland lost 16-12, with Paterson contributing two penalties to the Scottish tally. Ultimately, though, it was a disappointing end to his time with the national team.

Paterson said: "The game in Auckland against England was a highlight for me - the atmosphere, the intensity, a World Cup game, the first time Scotland had played England in a neutral venue.

"If only the result had gone our way."

Paterson is contracted to play for Edinburgh until the end of the season, with the option of playing for a further year. He is still an integral part of head coach Michael Bradley's team, who are currently flying high in the Heineken Cup.

His vast experience makes him the ideal mentor for many of the young professionals based at Murrayfield.

"I want to help young rugby players in Scotland. I would love to try to pass on some of the experience I have had with Scotland and Scottish rugby.

"That is a big excitement for me.

"I trained as a PE teacher prior to turning professional. I think the coaching thing is quite natural to me."

If Edinburgh make it to the latter stages of the Heineken Cup, it would be a fitting finale for such a great player, but in terms of playing for Scotland an illustrious career is over.