JUST weeks after Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill decided the time had come to have faith in Darcy Graham, the Scotland selectors are following suit. The 21-year-old’s status has been changed from ‘training with the squad’ to full member, and, while there are no guarantees that he will be selected to play against Wales on Saturday, national assistant coach Mike Blair made it plain yesterday that he and his colleagues had been very impressed by the player’s progress.
“He’s played really well,” Blair said. “Certainly from a form point of view he’s put himself right in the picture for being involved. He’s definitely got the X factor, and he’s got confidence, and as a back-three player and a young player coming through those are two key attributes, aren’t they?
“It’s not the first time he’s been named as that extra training player – it’s something we’ve used over the last 18 months to give young players experience to come in and see how things work and get to know players with a view to them being part of the team or squad at some stage due to their quality. Darcy has consistently shown he is a player who can play at this level, so he moves up to that full status.”
Blair Kinghorn is a fair bet to start at full-back in the absence of the injured Stuart Hogg, while Tommy Seymour and Lee Jones are likely to be the starting wingers. Dougie Fife offers similar positional versatility to Graham in that he can also play on the wing or at 15, but having Graham on the bench would provide a different kind of attacking threat.
Like Hogg, Graham is from Hawick, and Blair, while pointing out that the younger man was not as outgoing as Hogg, also highlighted similarities between the two. “With Darcy it’s a funny one, because you see a lot of confidence in his play, but he’s still quite a shy kind of guy. Maybe I’ve just not seen him . . . But it’s an interesting comparison, because there are definitely similarities, and I hope Darcy can go on and do as well as Stuart has done.”
Whoever is involved against Wales will have to deal with playing under a closed roof. While Six Nations matches require the agreement of both teams before the Principality Stadium roof can be closed, in the Autumn Tests the Welsh can decide on their own. The different environment produced can cause some tricky conditions, according to Blair.
“With the roof closed, you would think it’s a dry ball and you can fling it around. But if it’s a nice day and the roof is open it’s better than when the roof is closed because you create a sweat on the ball. You have 80,000 people in a confined area sweating alcohol from every pore – it is an interesting place – and you do create a sweat on the ball.
“The handling, though you think it is going to be a lot better, a lot easier, it does create a grease on it. International rugby is about playing in these types of environment and the best way of doing it is when you are with your backs to the wall and you have 70,000 people out against you, It will be a great experience for the guys who may be playing their first games.”
Harlequins centre James Lang was added to the squad yesterday as a replacement for Glasgow’s Sam Johnson, who injured his knee playing against Munster on Saturday. Lang made his Scotland debut in the first match of the summer tour, the win against Canada.
Magnus Bradbury, David Denton and Luke Crosbie have also been released back to their teams because of injury. It was established last week that Bradbury would probably miss the Autumn Tests because of a shoulder injury, and his Edinburgh team-mate Luke Hamilton was called up in his place. Leicester forward Denton has a head injury, while Edinburgh back-row Crosbie, who had been training with the squad, has a broken jaw.
Edinburgh centre Matt Scott is concussed and will not play.