Gary Graham, son of the former Scotland international George, has been called into the England training squad by Eddie Jones in what is the first step in their preparations for the Six Nations.
It is a move which could leave Scott Johnson and the rest of Murrayfield’s high performance division with egg on their faces if the flanker is lost to Scotland.
Graham Jnr played for Gala for many years when his father was a highly successful coach and when his young brother, also George, was a promising scrum-half with the club. Gary, pictured, was born in Stirling but qualifies for England on the three-year residency law, which is due to be extended to five years from 1 January, after spending two and a half seasons with the Jersey Reds before signing for Newcastle Falcons in the summer; a club his father helped to the English title in 1998.
Graham has started just three matches for the Falcons with one more appearance off the subs bench but he is exactly the type of player that England coach Jones likes, a genuine no frills grafter. He stands 6ft 2in and tops the scales around 17½st. He played for Scotland under-20s and the Club international XV but was never offered a permanent contract with either of the pro teams.
Interestingly, the Graham family were based in Carlisle when Gary’s two younger brothers, George Jnr and Guy, were due to be born and on both occasions father George rushed his pregnant wife over the border to give birth in Scotland such was his determination that his sons should be born there.
Guy is currently a member of the Scotland U20 squad, a flanker just like his big brother, and it’s not impossible that the two breakaways will find themselves on opposite sides of the divide in a future Calcutta Cup.
George Snr was not available for comment yesterday but it is difficult to imagine he is thrilled with Murrayfield’s determination to overlook the diamond in the rough that was right under their nose.
Jones will have seen something he likes in Gary Graham’s game but you suspect that Murrayfield’s acute discomfort at England’s selection of a Scottish player, especially one with Gary’s heritage, will only add to the Australian’s festive good cheer.
England, who open their Six Nations campaign against Italy in Rome on 4 February, have omitted Manu Tuilagi from the training squad.