Border terrier Darcy Graham is champing at the bit for a shot at one of the big dogs after being denied his chance to go up against giant Fijian Nemani Nadolo in Montpellier last weekend.
The Edinburgh winger could now face All Blacks legend Julian Savea when Toulon pitch up at BT Murrayfield for the second game in the Heineken Champions Cup Pool 5 and the 5ft 9in flier is relishing the prospect.
Injury to 6ft 4in behemoth Nadolo robbed the 21-year-old of a chance to showcase his Hawick grit but he could get another chance against another of the game’s juggernauts.
“I want to prove a point that there is still room for these small boys in the game,” said the former Scotland Under-20 and Sevens star. “You’ve got to go out and play each game as it comes and just enjoy the experience.
“It is kind of difficult, technique comes into it a lot as these big boys run flat out and it is very hard to stop them, so you just get there and get your body in front of them, I don’t respect my body I just throw myself in front of them.
“I was gutted [Nadolo] never played, I was wanting to prove myself. I don’t get too hung up on who I am playing against or the big names, whoever it is I will just run at them and tackle them.”
The dropping of Dougie Fife and then injury to Duhan van der Merwe has opened the door to Graham, who has suffered from two consecutive missed pre-seasons, while also spending much of last season on the sevens circuit.
The Borderer grasped his chance in the Guinness Pro14 win over Cheetahs a couple of weeks ago, defying his diminutive stature with a leap that would have done a Tweed salmon proud to claim one high ball, and gained glowing praise from coach Richard Cockerill.
The coach rewarded him with re-selection for that huge return to the Champions Cup at Montpellier last Saturday, which ended in a brave but frustrating 21-15 loss.
Graham revealed that he has bulked up to nudge over 13 stone, using the time provided from an untimely summer injury to work on his physique.
“I came into Edinburgh in my first year [last season] and I was 77kg and I am now 84kg so it is fair bit of weight in just over a year.
“When I did my quad it was good because I could get into the gym for two sessions a day and build up my strength, but it was brutal for four or five weeks.”
It may be something he has accepted he needs to work on physically, without compromising the lightning pace which has marked him out as a top young Scottish prospect, but it has never been an issue mentally.
“That is what it comes out like, ‘oh he will be too small’ and ‘his defence will be weak’, but I just go out and try and do well,” said Graham. “Defending wise has been the main thing I have been working on, trying to get more dominant in tackles, trying to get off the line quickly.
“[Adding the weight] has helped with carrying, getting over the gain line and breaking tackles. It has not slowed me down, I am feeling really sharp now.”
Graham’s focus is on selection for and beating Toulon on Saturday but, with Gregor Townsend due to name his autumn Tests squad this morning, he has no qualms about expressing his international aspirations.
“We were going to Montpellier to put them away, we weren’t there to keep the scoreboard down,” he said. “It will be similar this week against big boys, physical and big runners and it is the physical edge that the other teams might have over us that we need to get over and take things to them.
“We just need to back ourselves I think. For the first 10-15 minutes it was like a bit of an overwhelming experience and it took a while longer to settle the nerves than we would have liked.
“We need to start the Toulon game well and fire in straight away and believe in ourselves because we are good enough.
“We just switch off at times, but it is definitely there, we will put a big team away at some point and it has to be sooner rather than later. That is now two games in a row under my belt the full 80 and I want to keep building and show what I can do and push for the national squad, that is kind of my end goal, it would be a dream to play for Scotland.”