Adam Pattinson’s impressive form at this year’s Six Nations Championship has garnered plenty of attention, not least because the 22-year-old opens up about his unusual upbringing, how he honed his skills, and what he’s learned so far.
When Adam Pattinson was five years old, his parents, Sally and Stuart, took him and his younger brother, Harry, on a family holiday to Scotland, where they grew up. Before the trip, the couple had never been particularly hands-on with their children and largely left them to foster carers. But when they arrived in Perthshire and looked down on the brownstone buildings that line the streets, they realised how lucky they were to have been given the opportunity to become more involved with their sons’ lives.
“It just jumped off the page,” Sally says of the area, adding that they were immediately struck by the beauty of the rolling hills. “We hadn’t really done any research on Scotland, just wanted to go and see how the place looked. But it was beautiful, and I knew straight away that it was somewhere we could settle down.”
Harry, who is three years younger than Adam, concurs: “I remember being in Scotland and looking around and thinking: ‘Wow, this would be a pretty cool place to live.’ We didn’t even know what it meant at the time, just that it was a big place. But I think the first image that might have popped up in my head was of a fairly large castle with red-greyish-stone walls.”
That it should be located in Scotland was just a happy coincidence. After finishing school in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he studied medicine, Sally decided to further her studies in Scotland. Thanks to the country’s highly-regarded university system, she was able to do so, and the family packed up and moved to Perth, where they now live. But while they were there, Sally found out she was pregnant with Adam, and the family’s fortunes changed drastically.
Sally, who is an anesthetist by trade, found her new job challenging, and the family struggled to make ends meet. Luckily, when Adam was three years old, she landed a new job at a hospital in the UK. While she was there, she gave birth to her and Stuart’s daughter, Harriet, and the family was able to settle into a more comfortable life. And it was during this time that Stuart, a retired doctor, became interested in rugby union. With the sport offering both physical and mental challenges, he saw it as a way to keep fit and develop his skills while also providing Adam and Harry with a male role model.
“I just thought it would be a way for us to bond with each other and have some quality time as a family, and it also helps with my mental health,” Stuart says. “As a dad, I can’t always be there for the guys, so this is one way for me to be involved and give them some attention.”
While the family still lived in Scotland during the week, they spent the weekends in a camper van, travelling around the UK and playing as much rugby as they could. With the Six Nations Championship fast approaching, they are looking forward to getting back out on the pitch and representing Scotland in the international stage.
The Development Of A Skilled Player
By the time he was 10 years old, Adam had already played for his primary school and, at the age of 12, was asked to join the Under-13s section of the Scottish Rugby Union. It was from there that he began to develop into the skilled player that he is today.
Having represented Scotland at under-age level, Adam was given a Scotland Sevens Squad number and was called up for the first time in the summer of 2016. His performance in the tournament was sufficient to earn him a deal with then-professional rugby union side, the Scarlets, who were then preparing for their inaugural season in the Pro14. While there, he scored a try in each of their first four matches, adding a couple more in the playoffs, as well as a conversion, a penalty and three appearances as a replacement in the international rounds of the tournament. And what’s more, all of this was just a warm-up for what was to come.
Pro14 Grand Final
Before the start of the 2017 season, the Scarlets offered Adam a contract for the following year. The offer was enough for the family to consider a switch to Wales, where professional rugby is based, but they ultimately decided to stay in Scotland and continue their search for stability. While there, they were thrilled to land a deal with their local side, St Andrews RFC, who invited them to become honorary members. It was during this time that Sally began to make regular trips over to Wales to see friends and family. One such trip, in particular, sticks out in Adam’s mind. It was a family vacation to Tywyn, where he scored three tries in a single match, becoming the first teenager in history to do so.
“It was such a proud moment for us as a family. As a 12-year-old, you grow up listening to stories about John Rutherford, who was the first-ever captain of St Andrews, and to be able to represent him and his team was something special.”
The Scotland Senior Squad
On a more serious note, Adam is currently in contention to make Scotland’s senior squad for the upcoming autumn international series against France, England and Italy. He was included in the preliminary 40-man selection last year, but couldn’t break into the starting lineup, with Scotland opting for Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg, who were both in the squad, but played on the substitute’s bench. This year, with more open competition, may be a chance for Adam to finally make the step up to the highest level, but as in previous years, he’ll need to battle it out with some of Scotland’s finest, namely, the Glasgow-based duo of Greig Laidlaw and Jonny Gray.
A United Team
As mentioned, last year Adam couldn’t break into the Scotland side but did play for the country at Under-13 and Under-15 level, as well as representing the nation in the Sevens. While he was at school, he also played for Scottish schools in the annual tournament, The Palma Viaduct. He attended St Andrews University, where he was captain of both the first and second teams, before finishing his final year at the Glasgow School of Art, where he studied graphic design.
The 21-year-old has represented Scotland on numerous occasions in all youth levels, and he credits several personal and professional influences for helping him to develop into the player he is today. These include watching Andrew Grant, his favourite rugby player, represent Scotland in multiple internationals, and following in his footsteps, playing for a local junior side, Kelvin Grove Pirates. Additionally, he cites the late, great John MacKenzie, a former Scotland international and multiple-time Barbarian Cup winner, as an influence, adding that MacKenzie “is a player I look up to, not only for his playing style but also for the way he carried himself off the pitch.”
While all of this is promising, it’s worth noting that not everyone will have the talent that Adam possesses and that, even with his undoubted skills, he’ll still need to prove himself in the big leagues, first and foremost, with the Guinness Pro14. But with every new experience comes the opportunity to learn, and having been given the opportunity to do so far, it’s clear that he’s taken advantage of the situation. Having started his career with three consecutive appearances in last year’s tournament, including one as a replacement, and with four further appearances, including the playoffs, already under his belt, he’ll be looking to continue his form into next year’s season. While his ultimate aim is to play at the highest level possible and represent Scotland on the international stage, for now, his primary focus is on building on last year’s achievements and continuing to develop as a player.