NOT everyone in Scottish Rugby is complaining about lockdown. Whilst recognising the myriad financial, logistical and structural problems the pandemic has thrown up, Edinburgh and Scotland winger Darcy Graham was pretty pleased the halt on all action coincided with his recovery from a knee injury which had already kept him out of the first four rounds of the Six Nations.

“Obviously I got a lot longer than I expected to come back to full fitness so, selfishly, lockdown came at a good time for me,” he said. “It’s feeling great now. I’m flying in training and I was probably ready to play two weeks ago.

“I’m raring to go. My last game was Agen at home in January, so it’s been a few months and I’m very excited to get back.”

The big day is getting closer. Edinburgh take on Glasgow Warriors on Saturday in the first leg of an 1872 Cup double-header which will bring the curtain down on the abbreviated Guinness PRO14 regular season. The capital outfit – who are two points clear at the top of Conference B – need one league point from those two matches to book a place in the play-offs, while they will probably need two wins to secure a home draw.

Warriors are, realistically, only playing for pride but will be determined to make a point under a new head coach, at the end of a season which has not really lived up to expectations.

For his part, Graham – who has scored 15 tries in 30 games for Edinburgh, and five tries in 11 games for Scotland – is expecting a ferocious contest, but hopes his team will be able to play in style similar to the one they managed in his last outing against Agen on January 18, when he scored four tries in a 36-0 victory which booked a place in the knock-out stages of the European Challenge Cup (they are due to play their quarter-final away to Bordeaux-Begles on September 19).

“That was definitely the best team attacking performance we’ve seen from us this season,” he said. “We’re playing a lot more expansive rugby now and we’ve got the players to do it.

“In the first few years after Cockers [coach Richard Cockerill] came in, him and Kitty [defence coach Calum MacCrae] really hammered into us about defence and now we’re building on that. We’re getting better and better, and we’re now not just looking to exit and kick the ball, we’re looking to play from anywhere. It’s really enjoyable.

“I’m getting more of the ball which is exactly what I want. I want to get my hands on the ball and get running, so it’s definitely suiting my style of play.”

While there is bound to be a bit of match rustiness, Graham reckons the preparation has been as close to perfect as it is possible in the circumstances.

“We’ve had an eight-week pre-season,” he said. “The first four weeks was just wee bubbles, four of us running on the pitch all spread out. Then the last four weeks we’ve been into team stuff.

“It’s been getting us back in the mode and now we’ve got a game. We’ve been cramming so much into the last four weeks, it’s been pretty intense and tough on the body but it’s about getting us ready for the knocks and bumps that are coming.

“We’ve been doing contact pretty much every day. That’s been bone on bone, or on the bags, just trying to harden us up and get us ready for what’s coming on Saturday.

“Every time we’ve had a performance session, it’s chucked down with rain so there have been a few slip-ups. But from where we were this time last year, we’re looking a lot sharper

and a lot better. Everyone is still remembering stuff so we’re not back to square one or anything. Boys are looking sharp, they’re looking fit and the S&C team have been hammering us there.”

“I was ready to explode back into it and chuck my body back into things. Nothing is going to change for me; I’m going to go out and try to perform as well as I can for the team.”

From famine to feast, once they get through these two 1872 Cup games, Edinburgh will be hoping to have two play-off matches as they eye the PRO14 title, and then it will be straight into European action for what they hope will be three knock-out matches to take them to the summit of that competition as well. If they do reach the Challenge Cup final

on October 16, then the plan is for them to have already started the 2020-21 PRO14 season, while the internationalists in the squad can also look forward to a six-match international block kicking off on October 24.

“It’s literally one game at a time,” Graham said. “We’re focusing everything on Glasgow. We’re not into the semi-finals yet. We need to perform and turn up on the day. Glasgow are a really good team. They’re solid, strong and they’ve got great attacking threats. We need to be defensively sorted and be ready for them.

“There’s always a point to prove with the Edinburgh v Glasgow game. There’s always that history behind it and it’s going to be a great match. We’ve never been in this position before, but it would be huge for the city to get a home semi-final. Boys have not played for that long that everyone is raring to go.

“There’s a lot of games coming up, 27 games in 28 weeks or something. It’s going to be a huge season, pretty much straight through for 11 months. It’s exciting, and it’s about looking after yourself, looking after the body.”

There is no doubt the 23-year-old is up for the challenge.

“When you get a break, you definitely do fall back in love with the game,” he concluded.