Building the Perfect Six Nations Player: Chris Paterson picks the ‘pretty special’ speedster that can rip through defences

Dylan Coetzee
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Former Scotland back Chris Paterson picks his speed merchant.

Former Scotland back Chris Paterson picks his speed merchant.

What would the Perfect Six Nations Player look like? Planet Rugby have teamed up with Two Cents Rugby, eToro and a host of former players and coaches to answer that question.

This six-part series is brought to you by eToro, the official investing and trading partner of Premiership Rugby, where we dive into the different attributes players bring to a team and head to the lab to piece together the perfect Six Nations player, getting insight from some of rugby’s top minds.

Just like you can build your ideal investing portfolio on eToro, we will combine attributes like kicking, power, speed, defence, and leadership into something unstoppable on the rugby field.

Speed is next up, and we have recruited the help of Edinburgh star and Scotland’s all-time points scorer Chris Paterson.

Speed in rugby

“So important, vitally important for everyone. The speed can be physical speed, the sprinting speed, the speed of your leg, but the speed of mind is the first one I’d touch on,” Paterson said when asked about the importance of pace in the game.

“Being able to make quick decisions and then execute them with that speed is so important. Everybody knows roughly what everyone else is going to do at the moment in rugby. There’s a lot of analysis. There’s very little spontaneity. So if you can make a quick decision and act on it really quickly, then you’re going to beat defences.

“I think it manifests itself mainly when you think about speed as proper, proper leg speed, flying wingers, full-backs. centres and back-rows, over the years as well. But yeah, proper speed with a ball in hand and in defence as well.”

The Scottish centurion admits he would happily give the ball to faster players around him during his playing career and be sure to follow behind for opportunities coming from that.

“Well, the quickest players I would play with, I would give it them as early as possible. Some players like the ball at the line. Some players like you to try and, you know, make a half gap or pull some defenders on. If I knew someone had serious gas, I like to give the ball early and then try my best to trail them,” Paterson said.

“Try and do the damage on that second catch because if players are so quick, they could get on the outside edge or they could pull away from a defender and it would very rarely be hit with a dominant front on tackle because they were so quick, they’d get to an edge.

“So yeah, it was a case of giving them the ball early and then just trying as hard as you could to stay in the slipstream and pick up offloads and drive.”

Blair Kinghorn

When asked for his speed selection as part of the series, Paterson opted for compatriot Blair Kinghorn, who is dripping with confidence since his move to Toulouse earlier this season.

“I’ve gone for Blair Kinghorn, full-back for Scotland. A former Edinburgh player, plays in Toulouse and he is tall – six foot three/six foot four – with a long stride, and seriously quick with ball in hand. It’s just brilliant to see now with such a lack of space in the game, when there is half a gap, it seems to be a big gap for him because he accelerates through, gets away from that initial first-line defence and he gets those big long legs opened up.

“It’s really important as well, in terms of being a full-back, your defensive positioning because, if you’re slightly out of position, you can make up for someone going for a 50:22 effort or a cross-field kick.

“If you can make up two or three yards or even half a yard, When you have the speed to do so, it’s so crucially important and we’ve spoken about support lines as well. Blair gets on the end of a lot of creative play with Finn Russell and Sione Tuipulotu, Huw Jones, Darcy Graham, Kyle Steyn, even Duhan van der Merwe getting away.

“So with Blair’s pace to support and get on the end of these offloads, it’s pretty special to watch, I must admit.”

The great Scot believes that Kinghorn has a presence about him and that his versatility makes him more of a complete player.

“Having the experience of Blair back, he’s over 50 caps as he’s playing in the Top 14 and starring in the Top 14. There’s an aura around his presence. I see his height, his physicality, his size in the air,” the former outside back said.

“He grew up as a 10, as a first receiver, mainly through schoolboy rugby, and probably signed professionally straight out of school as a 10. So his distribution is actually excellent for somebody who’s so long-limbed, and playing the last couple of seasons at 10 has added a real strength to his game.

“He scored so many tries for Edinburgh just getting that ball back and gassing defences. But I think with more space, the ability to scan at the back, his speed that allows him to cover up mistakes and make cover tackles, I think 15’s his best position.

“I love versatility in players. I think if he can pop up at first receiver, he is a 10 at one side of the ruck, he’s 15 at the other, you can distribute, you’ve got a kicking game, he kicks goals. Long may it continue.”

The Perfect Six Nations Player series is brought to by eToro, the official investing and trading partner of Premiership Rugby.

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