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Passionate pair have ideas for direction of the nation's top jobs

Any clash between sides coached by Ian Rankin and George Graham is always likely to be a full-blooded affair, and so it proved at Netherdale on Saturday.

The passions of the men on the touchline was mirrored by the commitment of their charges on the pitch as Graham's Gala edged out Rankin's Dundee High by the narrowest of margins, 17-16.

It was brutal and mostly basic stuff, a fierce and fractious contest, but to dismiss it as Neanderthal rugby would do a grave disservice to the wily insight that Rankin and Graham bring to the coaching trade. Farmer Rankin and former soldier Graham may spend their Saturday afternoons bellowing expletives at their players, but there's method in their mouthfuls and a canny appreciation of what the old game is all about. And, perhaps more pertinently, of what makes Scottish rugby tick.

Rankin and Graham have both spent time on the Scottish Rugby Union payroll – the former coaching with Caledonia and Edinburgh, the latter with the Border Reivers and the national team – so their views are not to be dismissed, as the views of too many Scottish coaches seem to have been in the recent past, on the basis that they are not informed by experience.

Rankin may be past the point where he sees a return to full-time professional coaching as a realistic prospect, but the 47-year-old Graham, who combines his duties at Netherdale with a job in a Carlisle timber yard, is of an age and a mind that would probably jump on any opportunity that came his way.

Not that he expects one in the foreseeable future. The effective sacking of Michael Bradley from the head coach role at Edinburgh last week has created an obvious vacancy, but Graham's faith in the current Murrayfield administration has diminished to the point that he has virtually ruled himself out already.

"I've said before that I think we should promote from within when these chances come along," said Graham, who won 25 caps at prop for Scotland between 1997 and 2002. "But the people in charge, Mark Dodson [the SRU chief executive] and others don't seem to have any confidence in our club coaches."

Graham recently ruled himself out of applying for another job with the national team, suggesting that Dodson and Graham Lowe, the former director of performance at the SRU, had indicated that only coaches with professional experience should bother to apply for senior positions with the Union.

"Where do you get experience if you're not given the chance?" he said. "They took a huge punt on Gregor Townsend, who had never coached a club at professional level, and he's doing a great job at Glasgow. So why can't Ally Donaldson or Kenny Murray [of Currie and Ayr] do the same?"

Graham's own prospects with Edinburgh are further hampered by the fact that Bradley's assistant, Neil Back, has been retained at the club and is a forwards specialist. Although it is widely suspected Back has held on to his job simply because the cost of getting rid of him, his presence at the club means that there is a more pressing need to find a coach whose expertise is in back play.

Graham suggested that two Scots who could do a job for the club are Bryan Redpath and Carl Hogg, who enjoyed a successful partnership at Gloucester until Redpath's move to Sale last year. "They've both been pro coaches for some time," said Graham. "If we want to keep Scotland Scottish then they could do a good job. But I suspect that Mr Dodson will see it differently and look further afield."

Rankin echoed Graham's sentiments, going so far as to suggest that good club coaches could walk away from the game if they find that their ambitions continue to be thwarted by the governing body.n"There are quite a few coaches in Prem 1 who are seriously asking if they should continue," he said. "That's a real shame."

However, Rankin's greater frustration has been with the failure to promote local playing talent. Nine days ago, f or their RaboDirect PRO12 match against Munster in Cork, Edinburgh fielded a side in which only one of the eight starting forwards was Scottish qualified. The capital side were soundly beaten 30-3, the result that effectively sealed Bradley's fate and impending departure from the club.

"You could take a handful of players from both sides here and they would be a better bet than some of the guys who are there at the moment," he said. "To have just one Scottish qualified forward starting for Edinburgh last week is a slap in the face for some of them.

"It is tough and it should be tough, but just look at Lee Millar and George Graham [the Gala half-backs]. They are accomplished guys. Given the opportunities it could be remarkable what they turn on."

What they turned on at Netherdale on Saturday was enough to beat Dundee, as Graham, the coach's son, scored an early try and Millar kicked four penalties to bring all Gala's points. Dundee claimed a try through fly-half Brandy Laursen, while Jack Steele added a conversion and three penalties.

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