It is now two-and-a-half years since Darcy Graham announced himself as a potential future star with a wonderful try for Scotland Under-20 in the historic win over Australia at the 2016 Junior World Cup.
As 2019 dawns the 21-year-old has a couple of years’ apprenticeship as a pro under his belt, a senior Scotland cap in the bag, and is looking to kick on and establish himself as a major player in the next 12 months.
The transition from club and age-grade international rugby has been blighted by a couple of injuries since he signed full-time for Edinburgh in 2017 and Graham has had to wait for his opportunity, honing his development with valuable time spent with the national Sevens squad.
Opportunity has finally knocked this season and, with a fair wind, the Hawick flier could be set for a defining year as he looks to cement his place in Richard Cockerill’s first-choice XV and aim for more Scotland honours.
“I just keep pushing, taking it week by week, pushing for a starting place with Edinburgh and also pushing for Scotland,” he said. “That’s my dream. I got the last seven minutes back in the autumn Test [against Wales]. I just want more of that now. It was amazing, a dream come true.”
That international debut in Cardiff came after Graham had been left out initially of Gregor Townsend’s 40-man November series squad, although he had been invited to train at the national team camp.
Blistering performances for Edinburgh against the Cheetahs in the Guinness Pro14 and Montpellier in the Heineken Champions Cup propelled him into the Test matchday 23 for that 21-10 loss to the Welsh and, while he played no further part for Scotland in November, he has continued to flourish at Edinburgh.
“I’m honestly loving my rugby just now, getting my game time with Edinburgh and keeping forcing my way into the team,” he said.
“I’m looking to nail down that winger’s spot and I’m getting there. But I’m not taking anything for granted. You never know what’s going to happen next week. You have one bad game and Richard will swap you out so you’ve got to keep that form and take your opportunity.”
He may stand at 5ft 9in in his studs but talk about size has always been water off a duck’s back for a player who has shown aerial aplomb and engaged in the physicality of professional rugby with the tough-as-teak spirit you would expect from a youngster schooled in the Borders.
“I’m really enjoying the defending,” he said. “Working on my positioning, keeping my width. It’s split-second decision-making.”
Graham’s boss Cockerill has certainly been impressed with his progress and continued to throw him the starting winger’s jersey pretty much ever since that try-scoring display against the Cheetahs in October.
“I would always back Darcy in a physical contest because he is a tough, tenacious lad regardless of his size,” the coach said a couple of months ago.
“He’s a young lad who has worked very hard at his game, he’s not a big man but he’s got a big heart and works very hard. Regardless of his size he’s doing good things with and without the ball and is worthy of his place, and we’re looking forward to him stepping up to the next level.”
Graham will now wait to see if he is given a week’s break when Southern Kings visit BT Murrayfield on Pro14 duty before the crunch trip to Toulon in the Heineken Champions Cup the following week.
For now, he is enjoying reflecting with satisfaction on the double win against Glasgow which saw the 1872 Cup stay in Edinburgh hands for another year.
Graham didn’t see as much of the ball as he would like in the 16-8 win at Scotstoun on Saturday but said: “You can’t fault the forwards up front, they just dominated. We took their scrum away from them. They’ve got world-class backs but they couldn’t do anything.
“You can’t take anything away from our forwards. They are outstanding. When they are winning penalties you’re so energised that it’s like scoring a try. It’s huge when they win a penalty off a scrum; the boys are just buzzing.
“I just have to find ways to get into the game. Get on the ball. You might only get one or two opportunities out wide so you have to take them.”
Graham said that dominance up front on Saturday sent a surge of confidence through the Edinburgh ranks that a second win over their inter-city rivals within a week was always in their grasp.
“We definitely felt that,” he said. “Especially coming out in the second half in the lead, we knew we could put pressure on to them. We got the momentum.”
Bragging rights for the capital but also for Graham over a certain someone who hails from the same town, although the youngster was far too savvy to indulge in any public gloating.
“He [Stuart Hogg, pictured] has definitely helped me,” said the wing. “I can speak to him when we’re in [Scotland] camp. He’s just another Hawick boy.”