THE rapid rise of Ross Thompson has been one of Glasgow’s success stories of the past year, obvious to anyone who has watched the Warriors play. But for a real insight into what makes the 22-year-old stand-off such an important component of Danny Wilson’s squad, there is no-one better to ask than Chris Paterson.
Now a specialist coach with Scottish Rugby as well as a matchday analyst for Premier Sports, the former Scotland full-back, winger and fly-half works closely with Thompson. He has seen his protege take everything in his stride so far, up to and including his Test debut against Tonga, and is confident that he has both the strength of character and the all-round game to thrive at the all-round level.
“I’ve worked with him a long time,” Paterson said of Thompson, who is expected to continue in the No 10 jersey when Glasgow are at home to Edinburgh in Monday’s first leg of this season’s 1872 Cup double-header. “He’s really intelligent, he’s diligent – just a really good, sensible, old head [on young shoulders], but a really sound individual who works really, really hard.
“It doesn’t appear that being capped for Scotland has changed his mind-set or his preparation. Hopefully it just inspired him to do more.
“There will be different questions asked of him in the international camp in terms of style of play and great pressure – when you play international rugby you have less time than you have in professional rugby – so being exposed to that will hopefully give him a thirst for more. But he’s great to work with, and I’m just delighted that he is doing so well.”
Although Thompson has made a big impact since his Glasgow debut against Edinburgh at the start of the year, Paterson pointed out that he had to wait patiently before getting that chance. “He was in the system for a long time,” the coach continued. “He played a lot of under-20 rugby and then he never had an opportunity for a year or two. He didn’t play a huge amount of senior rugby, but then when his opportunity came he’s just done so well.
“He’s taken everything in his stride. What we see is his ability to perform under pressure and make the right decisions. It’s a crucial position, because you have to marry all the good bits of the forwards and the backs, knit it together and make decisions on the go and almost be a quarterback in terms of delivering the strategy and the structure that the coaches want. Add to that his goalkicking, which has been outstanding, and the fact he’s become an international player and delivered in that arena.
“His defence is brilliant. We tend to focus on No 10s making decisions and kicking well, but if you watch his defence, he’s a really physical defender, which is excellent.
“For someone who hasn’t played a huge amount of senior rugby, and hadn’t played a huge amount of rugby at all prior to getting his opportunity last January – apart from Super6 in which he was excellent – he’s just done so well. Everything that’s been thrown at him, he’s answered. He’s improved in different areas and had a big impact in a short space of time.
“And for a youngish player to get his first cap and deal with all the stress and pressures of playing No 10 and add elements to his game the whole time, just shows that he’s a quality, quality player. He’s an intelligent bloke and the consistency’s the thing that tops it off.”
Both teams go into Monday’s match in confident mood following impressive wins in Europe – Glasgow at home to Exeter at the weekend, Edinburgh at Saracens a week earlier. Paterson was loath to predict the outcome of the game, but believes the home side will have an advantage having played more recently.
“I don’t know who’s in the better shape. That statement win underlining how good Glasgow are will be massively important for them. Likewise, for Edinburgh, they got that away win.
“What position would I rather be in? I think I’d rather have played the week before. Glasgow have come off that win with a huge amount of confidence they didn’t necessarily have before that game.”
Both 1872 Cup matches are live and exclusive on Premier Sports. The broadcast of Glasgow v Edinburgh on 27 December starts at 6pm, and the return leg on 2 January begins at 1pm.