DARCY GRAHAM is expected to return to action when Edinburgh take on Glasgow Warriors on the international pitch at BT Murrayfield this weekend after recovering the quadricep injury which has side-lined him for the last month.
While overcoming a 13-point first-leg deficit to reclaim the 1872 Cup would be a commendable achievement for the capital club, the big prize from this weekend comes from just winning the game, because that will secure qualification to next season’s European Champions Cup ahead of their inter-city rivals (with the losing team going into the second-tier Challenge Cup).
Saturday’s action will also determine who Edinburgh and Glasgow face in the United Rugby Championship’s end of season play-offs, with away trips to Leinster, Munster, Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Ulster and Vodacom Bulls all potentially on the cards, depending on match results at Murrayfield and elsewhere.
Graham has been out of action since sustaining his injury during training on the week leading up to Edinburgh’s Challenge Cup victory over Bath in mid-April, and his comeback is a timely boost following successive home defeats for Mike Blair’s side to Ulster in their penultimate match of the regular URC season and Wasps in the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup.
“He has been moving pretty well and he has been out training today so we will see how he comes through, but he is looking good at the moment,” said head coach Blair. “It was his upper quad but he should be available for selection.
“It was an injury he’d had before so we were a little bit more cautious with it. He has been able to get through training, but today was not too intense, so fingers crossed.”
Blair also confirmed that centre James Lang, No 8 Ben Muncaster and second-row Marshall Sykes are back in the selection mix this weekend after recovering from injury. “We are not too sure about Glen Young,” he added.
There is a chance that Dave Cherry could return fairly soon from the arm injury he sustained against Ulster at the end of April, but Stuart McInally is likely to be longer-term after suffering a calf injury in the same match.
“We are biding our time with them,” said the coach. “Initially, the diagnoses was better than we first thought so there have been some positive noises, but we have to just wait and see. We initially thought that was them for the season, but they might be back.”
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Meanwhile, Blair explained the circumstances behind last week’s news that Argentinean winger Ramiro Moyano, who has scored nine tries in 13 appearances for the club since his arrival last summer, will move on after just one season.
“He signed a one-year contract with us and we had to make a decision fairly early on in the season about him because of the balance and make-up of the squad we’ve got,” explained Blair. “So, we probably made that decision, unfortunately for him, a little bit early because he’s been extremely impressive on and off the pitch.
“He’s got a great relationship with all the players, who love the way he just gets on with things. In his last game, he’d hurt his bicep and tried tackling with one shoulder because that’s the kind of guy he is – he was on the pitch and wanted to the best for his team-mates.”
That injury means Moyano has almost certainly now played his last game for the club.
Recent academy graduates Sam Grahamslaw (a loose-head prop) and Nathan Chamberlain (a stand-off) were also on the list of seven departees announced last Wednesday.
“This isn’t a decision you take lightly, it is a horrible thing to do, but I looked at things from Scottish Rugby’s point of view, I looked at it from the individual’s point of view and I looked at it from Edinburgh Rugby’s point of view, and in all three cases my feeling was that it was best to try and get them some rugby elsewhere,” he said.
“Sam has been in the environment for a couple of seasons and played three or four games, so that’s not good for his development and it’s not good for Scottish Rugby that he’s not playing regularly and improving though getting experience
“We tried to get Nathan some rugby through Super6, to get him some time in the saddle.
“These are young players and if we want to see the best of them coming through, then my thoughts are that rather than sitting here as third or fourth choice, that we’d give them the opportunity to go and get some game-time elsewhere, and hopefully in two years time they come back and stick their fingers up and say to us: ‘Put an extra zero on that offer you were going to show me last year because this is how good I am now’.
“It is a really difficult one, especially when you bring in someone like Jamie Jack [a 25-year-old loose-head prop signed from English Championship side Ampthill last week] who is not Scottish qualified, but we see a bit of a rough diamond in Jamie and it allows Sam to get some rugby elsewhere to develop, and I believe that’s best Scottish Rugby at the moment.
“It’s not just my decision. There are obviously discussions in and around it with upstairs at the SRU, with other coaches and with Doug Struth [Edinburgh’s managing director] as well. These are conversations which are ongoing. It is a complicated situation trying to sort out the budget and how best to develop players. It is an interesting mix.”