Richard Cockerill confident Darcy Graham can play key role against Warriors

Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill has “every confidence” that his young full-back Darcy Graham will rise to the occasion of going head-to-head with his boyhood hero Stuart Hogg in tonight’s derby clash with Glasgow at Scotstoun.
Darcy Graham has come on in leaps and bounds this season, under the tutelage of Richard CockerillDarcy Graham has come on in leaps and bounds this season, under the tutelage of Richard Cockerill
Darcy Graham has come on in leaps and bounds this season, under the tutelage of Richard Cockerill

The 21-year-old will be up against his fellow Hawick man in the latest chapter of what has been a dream season for the two-try Calcutta Cup hero.

With Blair Kinghorn out for the rest of the season, Graham has reacquainted himself with the No. 15 jersey and the coach is sure the Borderer will find the prospect of going up against the superstar from his hometown as an opportunity rather than anything to be intimidated by.

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“I think he is capable of playing well and holding his own against anybody,” said Cockerill. “Darcy has been very good. He is a young player learning the game and he brings a real edge to how he plays and he will be important to us. I have every confidence he is more than capable of dealing with this type of game.”

Earlier this year, Graham spoke of how the 67-times capped Hogg he idolised as a youngster had been a guiding hand as he was brought into the Scotland squad and then, playing on the wing, made a stunning impact on the Six 
Nations tournament.

“Hoggy has definitely helped me,” said the wing in January. “I can speak to him when we’re in Scotland camp. He’s just another Hawick boy.”

Edinburgh will know by kick-off this evening if they have a shot at making the play-offs, or the fourth place that brings a Heineken Champions Cup play-off, with Benetton, who are third a point ahead of Cockerill’s me, playing Zebre and Scarlets, who are a point behind in fifth, up against Dragons earlier in the day.

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It leaves Edinburgh’s situation looking sticky but, after two grinding wins over Glasgow this season, Cockerill insists that if a bonus-point chase develops it will be done on their terms. “I’m as confident as I can be. We have got it all to do but it should be a good contest,” said the Englishman.

“The scoring four tries part, you can do that in lots of ways. Scrum or lineout drives or pick and goes. It is no secret we won’t make the game loose and open as that will suit Glasgow more than it suits us. We have to control the game. If we need to score four, we will score one, then another and so on. It’s not that from the first minute we will wing it from side to side and have a crack as that will suit the opposition more than us. We will still play our structure and it may mean we take kicks to corners rather than kick for threes. It will be a great contest. They need to win for an easier passage to the final as they say.

“There is as much pressure on Glasgow as ourselves. It will be interesting to see who deals with that pressure best.”

Cockerill has returned to the centre pairing of Chris Dean and James Johnstone that has served him well for most of the campaign in favour of Mark Bennett and Matt Scott, who at one time in recent years were a shout to be the first-choice Scotland midfield duo.

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“Matt Scott is not picked. Chris Dean and Jimmy Johnstone have been our best centres and they have earned the right to play,” said the coach. Mark goes onto the bench and Matt Scott is left out.

“They [Bennett and Scott] have had long periods of being injured and haven’t found their form. That’s credit to the other two who have played very, very well. They have earned the right to start this weekend in our biggest game of all.”

A shoulder injury to Jaco van der Walt means Kiwi Simon Hickey comes in to direct things from stand-off, and Cockerill believes he will present a different challenge to the Glasgow defence.

“Simon’s ball playing ability is slightly different to Jaco’s,” he said. “Simon brings a bit more of a ball playing element to our back line which is helpful. He also understands the game well and is more of a ball player than Jaco. He is more of a tactician while Jaco is more physical at the line. Simon is more of a footballer and more thoughtful around certain parts. He gets an opportunity to prove himself.”

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Cockerill doesn’t believe the fact some Glasgow players, notably Hogg, could be playing in their last ever derby will be a factor.

“Not really, they’re all good pros and all they’re thinking about is trying to get to the final,” he said. “They’re a good side, they’ve earned the right to be in the top two of their conference and have an opportunity to finish top so they can have a couple of weeks’ rest, have someone at home in the semi-final and then hopefully move on to Celtic Park and win the competition.”