I'm now where I'm supposed to be - Graham

Gary Graham made his Scotland debut against Italy on Saturday
©David Gibson/FOTOSPORT

Scotland’s newest Test cap Gary Graham has thanked Steve Boden for pushing him to new heights when he was playing for Jersey a few years ago and making him believe he could go on and play at the top level.

Back-row Graham, now 26, was called up for England’s training camp last January before a tug-of-war for the player between Eddie Jones and his Scotland counterpart Gregor Townsend.

A lot of it was played out in the media and the player himself - whose dad George was a stellar prop for Scotland - made some ill-advised comments, but his 10-minute cameo off the bench for the Scots against Italy on Saturday in the Guinness Six Nations opener at BT Murrayfield ended the matter once and for all.

Having been brought up in Cumbria, Graham did play for Scotland under-20 with the likes of Stuart Hogg, Ali Price and Finn Russell, but as the years went on it did not seem like he was going to hit the same heights as them.

He represented Gala and played for the Scotland Club XV, but with a full-time job as an electrician on the go as well, rugby was not his sole focus.

Then in February 2015, everything changed.

Jersey were going through an injury crisis in the English Championship and needed reinforcements quickly.

“I was an electrician, plying my trade doing that. I had just started a new job a month before I got called by Jersey,” he told TRU.

“They rang me on the Monday and wanted me there on the Wednesday. I managed to talk another day out of them and got there on the Thursday. I flew there Thursday, flew back Friday, then played against Doncaster on the Saturday, it was a bit of a whirlwind.

“I've got a lot of people to thank for this cap, but I really must thank Jersey. Steve Boden, who’s now the Yorkshire Carnegie head coach, was the forwards coach there at the time and he worked me just as hard as my dad [who had coached him at Gala].

“Steve helped me and gave me my chance at Jersey. He believed in me and things have taken off from there.”

Impressive showings for Jersey between February 2015 and the summer of 2017 saw Graham earn a move to the top flight with Newcastle Falcons.

“When I first signed for Newcastle, I was hoping I might get a game or two,” he said.

“Then I got a couple and I became a regular. When it [the England call-up] happened, I thought there must be someone called Gary Graham in a different team. I was just happy to be involved to be honest.

“I then just put my head down at the Falcons. I got in touch with Gregor and said I was still available and then it kicked off from there.

“I've had a few wind-ups [about the comments he made about wanting to play for England], but we all make mistakes. It was a bit of silliness from me, but I'm now where I'm supposed to be.

“My Scotland team mates have been perfect, really good boys. Everything is geared towards winning and Scotland being a better team. I'm just happy to be a part of it.”

And given his father won 25 caps between 1997 and 2002 and also had a spell involved with the Scotland coaching set-up, it is not surprising that there was a lot of emotion in the Graham family at the weekend.

Graham revealed: “I saw him after the game and he was bawling his eyes out saying how proud he was, it was a really special moment.

“The whole family was at the game, my mother, father, brothers and girlfriend so this is as good as it gets.

“It has all been a dream. Obviously, I played Scotland under 20 level and Club XV level, but it was a dream come true to get on for the full team even if it was just for a few minutes.

“I'm still kind of pinching myself. When we came in, I got off the bus and I was choking back tears. I didn't really know what was going on. I don't know where I am or what I'm doing so I'm just taking it as it comes.

“During the anthems I was looking around the stadium not quite believing what was going on, it's been a while since I sang that anthem, the last time would have been a club international a few years ago. To do it again at the top level was something special.”

Some things remain the same even when you have an international cap in your back pocket, though, and Graham is expecting some criticism of his performance from Graham senior - who still coaches at Hawick - in the coming days.

“He's my biggest critic, but I think that has probably got me to where I am,” Graham junior said.

“He used to work me hard when I was at Gala and even at Newcastle, he watches all my games back and tells me what I've done wrong. I've never had a good game according to my dad!”

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