RWC23: South Africa v Scotland: “I know I am going to win those small battles, I don’t care who it is against”

Scotland winger Darcy Graham says his team have nothing to fear against the Springboks

Darcy Graham says Scotland have nothing to fear against South Africa. Image: © Craig Watson -
Darcy Graham says Scotland have nothing to fear against South Africa. Image: © Craig Watson -

WHETHER it is out on the pitch, or patiently answering questions during a pre-match press conference, Darcy Graham is a 5ft 8ins bundle of energy, who is always on the move. So, the several hours he spent in a hyperbaric chamber during the week leading up to Scotland flying out to France for the start of their World Cup campaign must have been torturous.

He’s also a level-headed sort of fella and is able to recognise that it was time well spent if it aided his recovery from the quad injury which kept him out of Scotland’s final warm-up match a fortnight ago, allowing him to line up in the No 14 jersey for this weekend’s eagerly anticipated World Cup opener against reigning champions South Africa in Marseilles.

Graham’s return is good news for the player and for Scotland because he’s now back operating at the peak of his powers after missing the Six Nations with a knee injury, offering a different sort of attacking threat on the right wing through his acceleration, nimbleness and appetite for action, which could be crucial if Gregor Townsend‘s side are to cause an upset.

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“We never really knew what we were letting ourselves in for,” chuckles the 26-year-old, who was accompanied on his trips to the hyperbaric chamber at a private clinic in Leith by team-mate Luke Crosbie (nursing a rib injury). “We just went in, no headphones and virtually had to just stare at one another for 90 minutes.

“By the second time we went, we brought our phones and headsets in with us and just watched a movie. 

“The chamber was at a private clinic in Edinburgh, it’s around eight feet wide and you put an oxygen mask on, you are then breathing in 100 percent oxygen. They then drop the pressure and it helps the healing process.

“You just sit there and breathe it in, it’s a bit different and I don’t know what effect it had but it’s done its job and I’m here now and available to play so I’ll take it.

“There were five or six sessions in total and we had to do it every day. It’s a new thing but Gregor [Townsend – Scotland’s head coach] now has it in his head that it has worked so there will be a few boys being sent there in future, I’d imagine.”

Away from the field of play, Graham is a laid-back personality, but he admits to raised anxiety levels when he suffered that injury during training which could easily have ruled him out of this tournament.

“I was just running [in training] and I felt it go,” he reveals. “I knew there and then what I had done. When I suffered the same injury a few years ago, it was a four to six weeks recovery period so I was stressed about the tear.

“Fortunately, that wasn’t the case this time and I got over that niggle reasonably quick. I think I could probably have played that Georgia game, but it was better saving myself. With the bigger picture, I was happy to sit that one out and get myself ready for this game.”

While Graham understands the magnitude of tonight’s clash, he is far from daunted by the challenge against a Springboks outfit who are ranked second in the world and in a particularly rich vein of form at the moment having hammered Wales 52-16 and New Zealand 35-7 in their final two pre-tournament hit-outs. He’s not an arrogant character, but neither is he burdened with the limitations imposed by self-doubt.

“I honestly don’t bother about who I face because when I go out onto the pitch, I go out there knowing I am better than the player I am coming up against,” he insists. “That might not be the case, but in my head, I know I am going to win those small battles, I don’t care who it is against.

“I want to play against the best wingers in the world and against the best teams in the world,” he replies, when asked about the prospect of lining-up directly opposite the equally fleet-footed Cheslin Kolbe this evening.

“I respect him massively as a player. He’s one of the best wingers in the world, but in terms of myself, I’m just going to do what I do.”

Graham was still establishing himself in the Scotland team four years ago, when he came off the bench to replace Tommy Seymour for the final 24 minutes of that harrowing World Cup opening weekend capitulation to Ireland, before starting the three other pool games.

The team’s early exit from that tournament after a second defeat of the campaign to hosts Japan in their final pool match was a miserable experience for all involved, but the feisty Borderer – who has now scored 19 tries in 34 Test matches –   believes the current team are stronger for the experience, and therefore better prepared to progress to the knock-out stages from arguably the toughest pool in World Cup history.

“At the last World Cup, I don’t think everyone was clued in or switched on to their roles,” he explains. “But if you ask anyone in our squad now they will tell you their roles, the centres truck it up and facilitate the ball to the boys out wide. Blair Kinghorn or Ollie Smith – whoever is at full-back – help to take the pressure off of Finn so he can work his magic.

“When they do that, we have the boys out on the wings to score the tries, so everything is laid out very clearly and that’s taken us to where we are now.

“I think I’ve definitely improved as a player since then,” he continues. “I’m the same player in terms of using pace and footwork to try to make space form myself, but i have matured a bit and I know my own role better as well.

“I have a better idea of how I can get on the ball and how I can facilitate other players.

“I also understand better how other players play, so I know what Finn wants from me and I can run off him. I know what he’s going to do before he does it.”

After a promising warm-up schedule, in which they won all three home games and pushed France all the way in their only away match, we will find out tonight if Scotland’s self-belief is justified.

“It’s a huge challenge but every game is going to be a final for us,” concludes Graham. “It’s a World Cup and we can’t lose a game.

“We do want to get to quarter-finals and semi-finals, but we are just going to take it one game at a time and try to kick on from there.

“We’ve been ready for the last couple of days and we’re just excited to get out there on the pitch. All the work’s done. It’s now all about turning up on the day and performing.”

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About David Barnes 3908 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Darcy for his size is still world class. His speed makes up for lack of weight.

    These boys are professionals and I hope they can zone out the occasion and do the job they’re trained to do. Just so happens the job they do is the most exciting rugby in the world to watch at the moment. So here’s to them.

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