Hawick star Guy Graham is relishing his time representing his country with the Scotland Under-20s, and the young utility forward is looking forward to getting stuck into the Auld Enemy this weekend.
Graham has impressed during his brief time at Hawick this season. The backrow/second-row forward, who moved to Mansfield Park from Carlisle during the summer, has been one of the Greens’ most consistent performers, proving to be a key anchor of a front eight which turned around a disastrous 0-10 start to the season into one of the most dominant units in the BT Premiership.
Called-up to Steve Scott’s Scotland Under-20s Six Nations camp for the first time this season, Graham is one of a handful of players included in the squad who are not currently attached to the Scottish Rugby Union’s flagship BT Academy development programme, or come from one of the independent (private) school rugby factories, and has delivered. The young star has started in both of the dark blues’ Six Nations matches against Wales and France, scoring his first international try against our friends across the channel, and has been named in the starting XV to face the auld enemy at Myreside on Friday evening.
“When I was called up, I was absolutely thrilled. It wasn’t something I was expecting but something I was so happy to receive,” Graham said.
“I was playing for the South of Scotland in their sevens and 15s games and I was told Scotland coaches were in the stands watching us, so I just put my head down and worked hard. I wasn’t expecting much from it, because you always hear so-and-so is watching and you rarely get picked out. This time, however, it was different. The coaches liked what they saw and, added to my performances with Hawick, I obviously did enough to merit a call-up and I was thrilled to bits. Everyone in the family was chuffed for me.”
On facing England, Graham added: “The first couple of games in this year’s Six Nations haven’t been perfect for us but we are improving and, with England this weekend, I think everyone is really looking forward to it. The English players are mostly all attached to professional clubs and they have all the expectations and pressure on them. We are really just relishing the opportunity to take them on. We want to test ourselves against a team like them and obviously get the win over our biggest rivals.”
The first call-up to international level has been exciting for the talented Graham, but it hasn’t come without its challenges, most notably the intensive nature of training.
“It’s a totally different environment than what i’m used to,” Graham said.
“It’s non-stop rugby, all the time. It’s 7.30am till late and, while it’s very different to what I’m used to – training Tuesday and Thursdays with gym work etc worked into it – I’m loving it. It’s high intensity and, in the beginning, it was probably a bit of a shock, just how much work was involved each day. But after a couple of weeks, my mind and body got used what what we are doing and it’s been great ever since.”
Graham comes with international pedigree. Both his father, George – a former Scotland and Newcastle Falcons prop, and brother Gary – current England and Newcastle Falcons star – and that family experience has helped him cope with the demands of the international game.
“When I first got called up, obviously everyone was delighted for me and my dad helped a lot with what I needed to do while I was in camp,” continued Graham, who is hoping to convert his Six Nations performances into a place in this summer’s U20 World Championships in France.
“My dad told me I needed to just knuckle down and make sure I was training hard in every single session. He gave me a lot of guidance and, hopefully after the Six Nations has ended, I’ve done enough to get a chance to be with the team during the under 20 World Championships. I don’t know what the future holds but I’m looking forward to keeping improving and potentially working my way through the Scottish rugby structures.”