There’s nothing Darcy Graham likes better than getting the ball in his hands in open space, so his move to full-back for the Autumn Test against Tonga gets his full approval.
The Hawick flier will win is 20th cap but his first at 15. Although initially it seemed to be the position his career was headed, he’s played there only fleetingly since Under-18 level. The last time was two years ago as an emergency for the Heineken Cup quarter-final for Edinburgh against Munster.
‘I’ll figure things out on my own’
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 13, 2021
“I’m always open to a new challenge,” he said of taking over from Stuart Hogg. “Hoggy’s said I could come and grab him and he’s always there on the other end of the phone, so I know I’ve got that.
“But I’ve played it before, I know what I’m doing so I’ll just kind of figure things out on my own.
“I’ve really enjoyed it in training, getting my hands on the ball, running with a lot of space. I’m just excited to get my hands on the ball and get running again.”
Darcy’s never been the sort to hide out anyway, so we can expect him to pop up as usual in those confined infield spaces where he’s so difficult to contain.
“There is a wee bit of added pressure with the change, I guess,” he said. “There’s a fair bit of movement in that back line with Blair (Kinghorn) at 10.
“But I never stay on my wing anyway, so nothing changes much for me. I’ll just do as I do, go looking for ball, just be in a 15 jersey. Maybe it’ll make it a bit easier for me to get my hands on the ball a little more.”
There is the added element of the kicking game needed at 15 – something Hogg excels at – and different defensive alignments against what will be a physical Tongan outfit.
“We know Tonga are big lads and physical so our plan is to keep the ball in play and run them about the pitch a bit,” added Graham. “But it all depends on the weather. If it’s raining our game plan might change a wee bit.
“We’ve worked really hard on our frontline defensive focus, just being really physical and matching what they bring. They’re big boys, they’re physical and they’re going to run hard. We just need to match that on game day.”
Rufus is ‘the whippersnapper’
Oh my word…Rufus McLean! 😱
— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) March 21, 2021
He’s excited about being the experienced man in a back three with debutant Rufus McLean and Kyle Steyn.
“Rufus is the wee whippersnapper now!” he joked. “He’s unbelievable. He’s playing really well for Glasgow and he deserves his opportunity.
“I’m really excited to play with him – I’ve not played with him before. I’ve played with Kyle for the sevens, so I know how he plays and I kind of know what he wants.
“I want to take on more responsibility. That might mean standing up and speaking in front of the boys, but for me it’s just being a leader on the pitch.
“I’m not going to be telling boys what to do, I’ll just try to be a leader from what I do. I’ll help boys if they want to speak to me, like young Rufus, I’m always here for him. I’ll help anyone along the way.”
‘It’s not the same playing without fans there’
Can’t wait to get back to @BTMurrayfield next Saturday?
We have a little something to help whet your appetite. Stay tuned! 🎬🔜 pic.twitter.com/O3qdSBRtQw
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 22, 2021
The other aspect Darcy’s looking forward to are large numbers in the BT Murrayfield stands after 600 days of silence.
“I’m hugely excited,” he said. “I’ve said it before, I never used to notice crowds until they were gone. “It’s just not the same playing rugby without the fans there. Welcoming everyone back to BTM going to be great and I can’t wait to get out there.”
Tonga have named a team with six new caps and skippered by Sonatane Takulua, the former Newcastle Falcons scrum-half now with Toulon.