Gregor Townsend expecting wing Darcy Graham to be fit for World Cup opener

Graham missed Saturday’s win over Georgia with a quad strain.

Anthony Brown
Saturday 26 August 2023 21:16 BST
Gregor Townsend saw Scotland head off to the World Cup on a high (Jane Barlow/PA)
Gregor Townsend saw Scotland head off to the World Cup on a high (Jane Barlow/PA)

Gregor Townsend expects Darcy Graham to be available for Scotland’s World Cup opener against South Africa after the wing missed Saturday’s 33-6 win at home to Georgia with a quad strain.

The 26-year-old was named in the starting XV on Thursday but subsequently removed from the squad on Friday after getting injured in training, raising concerns about his availability for the Scots’ first match of the global showpiece in Marseille two weeks on Sunday.

Asked after the Georgia game if he was confident the talismanic Graham, who has 19 tries for Scotland would be ready to face the Boks, Townsend said: “Yes. I don’t want to say that and jinx it, but the indications would be that by the end of this week – potentially Thursday – he’ll be back to full fitness, if not it will be the following week.

“We’re training Tuesday and Thursday this week and then the guys will have Friday and Saturday off so we’re aiming for Thursday for Darcy. If he’s not able to train Thursday, it will be the following Monday in France.”

Scotland scored five tries in the second half as they fought back from 6-0 down to defeat Georgia in their final warm-up match.

It was the fourth time in four summer Tests they had trailed at the break and the third time they had fought back to win.

Although the Scots failed to fire before the break, Townsend was heartened by the way they blew their visitors away after the interval.

“I believe it was probably better for us going six points down because it meant we had to improve certain areas, our fitness would have to come through and it did, and our bench did really well too,” he said.

“We know also that playing against South Africa is a different game, but Georgia didn’t score a try so that was a pleasing aspect too.

That’s been a really positive outcome of these four games – our bench has played really well, and we’ve finished every game stronger than our opposition.

Gregor Townsend

“We’re still working for that performance we can be happy with over the 80 minutes. It is never going to be the complete performance, because opposition are going to have their moments.

“Georgia are a very good team. They’ve beaten Wales and Italy (over the last year), and they are outstanding in that contact area, so we have to give them credit too – but we know that certain aspects will have to improve. And at least we saw that improvement in the second half which was pleasing.”

Townsend – who leads his squad to their World Cup training base in France next Sunday – is close to crystalising his starting XV for the South Africa game, although he still feels he has big calls to make about who will be on the bench.

“It’s probably not set in stone,” he said. “We’ll have a good look at that game again in depth.

“I’m more clear on the 15 than the 23, and I know there are players who have put their hand up today to come into the mix, whether in the 15 or more likely the bench.

“That’s been a really positive outcome of these four games – our bench has played really well, and we’ve finished every game stronger than our opposition.

“That’s a credit to the fitness of the squad and what they’ve done during the (summer) campaign, but also the eight guys making a difference in the last 20 minutes of games and they certainly did that today.”

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