Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 October 2019

Scott Hastings backs 'phenomenal' Darcy Graham to make his mark for Scotland at Rugby World Cup

Former Scots international says skills developed playing at Dubai Rugby Sevens can help winger in Japan

Scotland winger Darcy Graham celebrates after scoring a try against Georgia in a World Cup warm-up match at Murrayfield on September 6. Getty
Scotland winger Darcy Graham celebrates after scoring a try against Georgia in a World Cup warm-up match at Murrayfield on September 6. Getty

Less than two years after finishing as the leading try-scorer in the Dubai Rugby Sevens, Darcy Graham could provide one of Scotland’s biggest threats as they begin their campaign on the biggest stage of all.

The Scots will go in search of an opening-match upset against Ireland in the Rugby World Cup, when they face the world’s no 1 ranked side in Yokohama on Sunday.

Graham is not a certain starter, as he competes for a place on the wing with the more experienced Tommy Seymour.

However, the 22-year-old Edinburgh back has shown enough in his short international career to date to suggest he fits perfectly with the attacking gameplan of Gregor Townsend, the Scotland coach.

His emergence, which includes five tries in seven Tests to date, is little surprise for those who saw him first on Pitch 1 at The Sevens in 2017.

Scott Hastings, the former Scotland international in sevens and XVs, says Graham is proof of the value sevens retains in preparing players for the XVs game.

“While you will always have specialists, I think sevens can still be used as a development tool,” said Hastings, who played at three World Cups for Scotland between 1987 and 1995.

“You need pace, fitness, stamina, physical attributes, individual defensive qualities, as well as individual attacking qualities.

“I remember commentating on Darcy [at the Dubai Rugby Sevens]. He played with such heart, and every time he got the ball, something happened. He was absolutely phenomenal.

“He has really excelled in a Scotland jersey. That excellence that he showed on the sevens field [has led him to get] a Scotland cap, and he is off to the World Cup. It has been a tremendous story.”

Graham represents the sort of figure that appeared to be being phased out increasingly in recent years in the elite XVs game, with many sides preferring bulk and power to speed and agility.

Darcy Graham  makes a break playing for Scotland against France at the Dubai Rugby Sevens in 2017. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Darcy Graham makes a break playing for Scotland against France at the Dubai Rugby Sevens in 2017. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Now he, and another sevens standout, South Africa’s Cheslin Kolbe, could be about to strike a blow back for players of relatively diminutive stature.

“The game has always been about shapes and sizes,” Hastings said. “If you look at a social game of XVs, you have the tall skinny ones in the second row, the rotund ones in the front row.

“The beauty of the game is that it goes through different manifestations. About five to 10 seasons ago, everything became about physique. Now it is all about one on one skill.

“These small guys, who are electric quick – and Kolbe is just phenomenal – have a part to play in the modern game. You have to try to break down defences.

“Yes, it is still very much a physical game, but there are still elements of the game that require one on one skill. Long may that continue.”

Updated: September 20, 2019 02:20 PM

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