DARCY Graham now appears certain to miss the remainder of this year’s Six Nations Championship after aggravating a knee injury while training with Scotland. The winger’s club coach Richard Cockerill, who had hoped to have him back for Friday night’s PRO14 match against Cardiff, revealed the setback at a press conference this afternoon.
“Darcy went training with Scotland last week and had a slight reaction to that knee issue,” Cockerill said. “I can’t see him playing in the next four to six weeks.”
Graham had resumed training with the national squad the week before last after recovering from the ligament injury that had kept him out of the first two Championship games, against Ireland and England. The hope then was that he would be fit to be considered for selection against Italy in Rome last weekend, but he missed that and will now sit out the remaining matches against France and Wales too.
While the loss of the 22-year-old will be a blow to Edinburgh as well as to Scotland, Cockerill will have a number of other national squad members available again for Friday’s PRO14 match against Cardiff at Murrayfield. Forwards Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, Luke Crosbie, Grant Gilchrist and Nick Haining, plus backs Henry Pyrgos and Matt Scott, are the individuals the coach expects to have at his disposal for the Murrayfield match.
Cockerill also revealed that tighthead prop WP Nel and stand-off Jaco van der Walt have both activated the extra year in their contracts, meaning they will stay with Edinburgh for next season at least. There is less certainty, however, about the future of the team’s other front-line stand-off, Simon Hickey. The coach wants the New Zealander to stay, and Hickey himself said yesterday that talks about a new deal had begun, but it remains to be seen if enough is left in the playing budget for terms to be agreed.
“We’re in chats about that [a new contract] at the moment,” the 26-year-old said. “There’s discussions ongoing, but I’m just doing my best to focus on the rugby aspect of things. It’s been nice to get some game time, so I’m just trying to play well and if I do that, those things tend to take care of themselves.”
Hickey added “For sure, yes,” when asked if he was keen to stay, but besides monetary matters he will have to weigh up his chances of playing more regularly for Edinburgh over the next couple of seasons. He has been back-up to Van der Walt for much of the time since he arrived two years ago.
“I’m just deciding what’s the next best step for me in terms of my rugby,” he explained. “I’m getting to an age where I’m hoping my best years are still to come – as a 10, it takes a while to mature and learn your game, so I’m hoping that my best years are still ahead of me. I want to be at a place where I’m pushing to get better and get to play a lot of rugby.”
Edinburgh have been fortunate to have two quality fly-halves in their squad who have stayed relatively injury-free over the past couple of seasons. If Hickey does leave, Cockerill will look for an experienced replacement, having decided there are no younger 10s currently in Scotland capable of making the step up straight away.
“We would bring someone in. At the moment there is not a young Scotsman who can step up and do that job well enough for us. We want to bring someone in who is SQ [Scottish qualified] and develop them but they are few and far between.
“We’ve been lucky with 10s, we have only had two and Jason Baggott has covered there while playing Super6 and Premiership. If we had to have a run with Jaco injured, Simon has done a great job and Duncan Weir before him but a 20 year old with no experience – and there aren’t any standout ones at the moment. We will keep looking. There are one or two to look at at the moment and see if one of those guys can be brought in at some point to help develop.
“We’ve got to sort out what he [Hickey] is doing, so we’ll look at our options there,” the coach added. “I think it’s like everything, it’s what he wants to do, what that costs, all those things. Our budget has stayed pretty much the same, players become more expensive and you have to start moving the jigsaw around.
“We’ve re-signed a lot of guys. I don’t think any of them are cheaper – no-one comes in and says ‘I’ve been overpaid, I’ll take a little bit less’.”
Italian international prop Pietro Ceccarelli is also out of contract at the end of the season and may find the budget at Edinburgh to be too tight a fit. “We’re still waiting on Ceccarelli and see what happens with him,” Cockerill confirmed.