When you’re barely into your teens of Test caps, two years feels like a lifetime. That’s how long it is since a 21-year-old Darcy Graham made his bow in a Scotland shirt, coming off the bench in Cardiff for Tommy Seymour with just six minutes remaining.
It was too late to have any impact upon a match already beyond a Scotland team which has not won in Cardiff since 2002, and Scotland went down to a comprehensive 21-10 defeat. But even that fleeting taste of international rugby, facing up to rampant try-scorer George North, taught him some invaluable lessons about Test rugby.
“Wales have got a really good defence; we’re only going to get a few chances, so in Llanelli we’re going to have to really take them when they’re on,” he said of this weekend’s game. “Two years ago on my first cap we didn’t do that - we had a few chances but we never executed them and we ended up losing the game. So when we get our chances on Saturday we’re going to have to be clinical and finish them off.”
Since that day Graham has proved himself an effective try-scorer for Scotland, his well-taken brace against Georgia taking him to seven tries in nine starts and 11 caps. But he knows that on Saturday in Llanelli, whether he’s facing his old adversary North or Gloucester’s teenage starlet Louis Rees-Zammit, he will spend a lot of time defending.
“Wales are big, physical men who will attack a lot more than the Georgians did, so we probably won’t see as much ball as we did on Friday night,” he said. “We’ll have to get our heads round that defensively and get up for that game, because we will have a lot more defending to do.”
That aspect of the game is one that the Hawick man, despite being just 5ft 9in, relishes and excels at, his work at the breakdown drawing praise from both club coach Richard Cockerill and his national counterpart Gregor Townsend.
“Getting over the ball in the tackle is something we are big on at Edinburgh,” he says. “I'm loving a wee jackal. With the work my centre partners are doing, they are defending really well and the boys are just falling at my feet and I am getting on the ball. I really enjoying that kind of battle.”
At Townsend’s urging, Graham has also started coming off his wing more often, trying to find space infield. In that he is very much like his back three teammates at Edinburgh in Duhan van der Merwe and Blair Kinghorn – one of whom will start on the left wing in the absence of Sean Maitland – with the trio coming through the ranks together.
The little wing was impressed but not surprised by Van der Merwe’s impact on his debut against Georgia. “It was unreal,” he said. “I know what Duhan can do - he’s done it for two years with Edinburgh, he’s been outstanding. Me, Blair and Duhan complement each other really well so it was really exciting to have our whole Edinburgh back three against Georgia. That was the first time we’ve all scored in the same game so it was quite nice for us all.”