CARLISLE-BASED Scotland international rugby union star George Graham has retired from the game after an illustrious career.

The 54-year-old, who has lived in the Harraby area of Carlisle for the last 25 years, announced he would he relinquishing his role as head coach of Hawick RFC on Thursday after a playing and coaching career lasting 40 years.

The former prop started his playing career for Stirling County in 1981, before 10 years later moving to Carlisle to switch from rugby union to rugby league.

He played for Carlisle Border Raiders for five years, starting in 1991.

"It was obviously a completely different skillset from rugby union," explained Graham. I had no idea about different things like not pushing in the scrum, not competing in rucks - it was very strange.

"We had good coaches and really good players and to this day have remained friends with them and they helped me along.

"It was a very enjoyable time. It made me a better player. It took me 17 years to get my first cap (for Scotland), but it was certainly worth it."

It was in 1997 Graham won his first cap for his country, in his first year playing for Newcastle Falcons.

He appeared 25 times for Scotland between 1997 and 2002, and played a total of 128 games for the Falcons. Graham had a career packed with highlights.

"Winning the five nations (previous format of the Six Nations) with Scotland, my first cap in 1997 and winning the league with Newcastle Falcons," he said describing his favourite moments.

"Winning the Scottish Cup with Gala, staying up with Hawick and managing to pull it together. That last one is up there with the others."

President of Hawick RFC, Rory Bannerman, said: "He was head coach for two and a half years. In the first year he saved us from almost certain relegation.

"We had lost the last 10 or 11 games before and he won six or seven to save us from relegation - a marvellous feat.

"In the next season we had won the last 12 games and the inform side heading into the end of the season."

Due to the coronavirus, Scottish Rugby made the difficult decision of cancelling the season, meaning Hawick will no longer be able to fight for promotion in the play-offs.

"It was disappointing the season came to an end due to the virus, but rugby is just a game and people's lives are more important," said Graham.

He made the decision to retire to watch his three son's play rugby, one of which plays for Penrith.