Rugby players with strong Borders links have helped create a fresh surge of interest as Scotland’s Autumn International Test series continues.
It was announced after the win over Fiji last weekend that former Hawick fullback Stuart Hogg would be leaving the Glasgow Warriors at the end of the season to ply his trade in Devon with Exeter Chiefs.
And Hawick was in the spotlight again this week when it was confirmed that Gary Graham, son of former Scotland prop and current Greens head coach George Graham, had been added to the 2018 Autumn Test squad.
That and Jedburgh’s Greig Laidlaw returning and captaining the side last Saturday at Murrayfield, plus the contribution of ex-Selkirk centre Alex Dunbar, means the Borders influence is shimmering once again among Gregor Townsend’s Scottish squad.
Newcastle Falcons back row and ex-Gala player Graham (26) has lived most of his life in England and was linked before with its national squad, but has made it very clear he’d like to play for Scotland.
His dad said Gary had a bit to learn yet about the Scots’ set plays, patterns and moves.
But there was obviously huge pride at his inclusion.
“I think it’s great he’s decided Scotland is the place he wants to go,” added George. “The only thing English about him is his accent – he’s 100 per cent Scottish.
“He is a quality player and always has been.
“If the second best team in the world calls you in and you just miss out on a game against Italy for England (through injury), you obviously have something about you.
“I was very proud that he was picked for that team as well.
“I was proud for my son – although not so proud he was going to play for England!
“I hope he gets the chance – he’s going to catch a lot of flak for these things, and probably rightly so, but he’s big enough and bad enough to defend himself.”
Gary would bring a lot to a Scotland side if he got the opportunity, added his dad.
“He is very, very aggressive, a good ball carrier, defensively very good and a big hitter as well.
“He’s fit and gets around the park very well. He’s good at clearing – he gets to the ball very quickly and manages to get people off the ball if they are on it.”
Meanwhile, Stuart Hogg is set to make the step up to the Gallagher Premiership by leaving full-time Glasgow Warriors at the end of this season and joining Exeter Chiefs.
It was announced last weekend that the former Hawick favourite would be moving on after nine seasons at Scotstoun, in which he made over 100 appearances and scored over 200 points.
This week, it was confirmed the south west of England would be his destination.
Hogg (26) tweeted: “Thank you to all of you for your kind messages over the last couple of days. They’re very much appreciated.
“Really excited for our next chapter as a family in joining a brilliant club in Exeter Chiefs from next season.”
Against Fiji on Saturday, Hogg made an unexpectedly early return to the international scene after an ankle injury, to win his 63rd cap, and was unlucky to miss a 61st-minute conversion attempt.