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Club scene: Borders showdown

George Graham is delighted that Lee Millar will be available to parade his gifts at stand-off when Gala travel to Melrose in the RBS Premiership on Saturday.

Delighted, but also mystified that the 21-year-old, originally from Elgin, but now resident in the Borders, has not yet been snapped up by one of Scotland's professional clubs.

"Lee is quality, he is somebody who can run the show at 10 and, as we saw on Saturday [during the Scots' defeat by South Africa], it is not as if we are exactly overflowing with guys who can shine in that position, so why Lee is still at Netherdale is a bit of a mystery to me," said Graham, the redoubtable prop who plied his trade in both rugby codes and knows a thing or two about identifying youthful talent.

"The SRU need to get their cheque book out and snap up somebody with Lee's abilities. Of course, it helps me that he is doing such a terrific job for Gala, and producing it on such a consistent basis. But the union have to get their act together, basically."

Graham has never shirked from offering his opinions, and that trenchant, take-no-prisoners attitude was evident at half-time in the Maroons' most recent league tussle when they trailed Stirling County 17-11 at the interval. It was, he remarked, not so much the score as his side's display which provoked him into delivering a rollicking.

"There were some harsh words and they were required, because we didn't do ourselves justice at all in the first half, and the lads went out and amassed 54 unanswered points in the second period, so the message obviously got through to them," said Graham, whose personnel are second in the table, two points behind Ayr, with a game in hand.

"None the less, I shouldn't have to keep doing that [resorting to the hairdrier treatment], because the boys know the standards which are expected of them and we have spoken often enough in the past about how they have to keep challenging themselves. It shouldn't need me to give them an honesty call in the dressing room. If we can overcome that issue, we can develop into a real force to be reckoned with in the years ahead. But we have to understand that nobody owes us anything and this Premiership is tough."

Graham appreciates that the looming encounter at The Greenyards will scarcely be for the fainthearted. For starters, Craig Chalmers' men have gone badly off the boil in recent weeks and have virtually lost their grip on the championship, so they recognise that defeat to Gala would be terminal. Then, of course, there is the fact that this is a Borders battle between ancient rivals.

"It is a huge match, a massive fixture for both of us, because we have the opportunity to move ahead in the Premiership race, and we face Ayr a week later, so this next fortnight could have a major bearing on how the whole season pans out," said Graham.

"But Melrose are always difficult opponents, Craig knows his guys, he will have them fired up, and they will be hurting from their recent results, so they will be determined to make things right. The two places [Melrose and Galashiels] are only three miles apart, so you can't overestimate the derby impact. We won there on Boxing Day last year, but it was an incredibly competitive game and the outcome was in doubt right to the end. I don't foresee it being different on Saturday and there are no favourites or underdogs."

Victory, though, would slam the door shut on Chalmers' charges. And with Millar still on the club circuit and the prolific winger Craig Robertson racking up tries ("there's no substitute for speed," said Graham) the force is with the Gala brigade. Especially since his team know what will happen if they don't hit the ground running.

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