Dickinson: Edinburgh v Newcastle is no friendly

Determined: Alasdair Dickinson
Determined: Alasdair Dickinson
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Edinburgh prop Alasdair Dickinson is relishing a return to the Murrayfield outfit this season, and a chance to repay the club that set him on the way to a career that has so far yielded 27 Scotland caps.

The Dundonian left the club for Gloucester in 2007, spending three years at Kingsholm before moving to Sale Sharks, where he had a similar period before returning north. Explaining his decision to sign up for a second spell in the Capital, he said: “I had a couple of options but I always wanted to come back to Edinburgh at some point. I left to experience something new. I thought now was probably the right time to come back to a club I owe a lot to because they gave me my first chance in professional rugby.”

With his 30th birthday approaching, Dickinson is now one of the more experienced players in the squad, but he does not expect that to confer any selection rights, adding: “I’ve got to come back here and graft just as hard, or harder, than anyone. Just because you have been here before, or you’ve been around a bit, it doesn’t mean that you will automatically be selected. It’s just the same as it’s always been – head down and graft, and hopefully play some good rugby.”

On his initial impressions of the club’s current state, he said: “It’s good to be back but a lot has changed since I was last here. There’s a good feeling about the club – new coaches, new regime. Change can be a good thing, so hopefully there are good things to come. Hopefully I can bring experience and add to the squad.”

With Edinburgh having signed two new front-row players in the past week, the battle for a berth in the side has intensified. However, in selecting Dickinson to start in tonight’s final preparation match, the coach has signified that the Scot is his favoured man in the loose-head berth at present.

The player takes nothing for granted, particularly as Wicus Blaauw and James Hilterbrand have not yet arrived at the club. For Dickinson, the task in hand is to play well enough to withstand the challenge from his rivals for the No. 1 shirt.

“You only ever borrow the jersey for one game and that’s the way I view it. You’ve got to perform otherwise you don’t get picked. We need that competition so that everyone plays to the best of their ability.

“I only ever look week to week, and I’ve got to play well to warrant the jersey for the first league game. I never view it as being set in stone, 
and every week I’ve just got to perform.”

Solomons, who has now been in charge for three weeks, is already faced with a substantial injury list, with international centre Matt Scott set to be absent for up to six weeks with ankle ligament damage, while Nikki Walker and Tim Visser are also out of action as they recover from surgery and injury respectively. In the pack, Ross Rennie is undergoing rehabilitation, while Steve Lawrie looks unlikely to be involved for some time as he recovers from the injury sustained on the summer tour.

Tonight’s encounter at Hawick’s Mansfield Park (kick-off 7.45pm) against a Newcastle Falcons side building up for a return to the English top flight, promises to be a tough test for Edinburgh, who open their RaboDirect PRO12 campaign away to Munster next Saturday.

Dickinson expects nothing less, saying: “I don’t think any rugby game is ever a friendly. I know there is nothing attached to it in terms of league points or anything, but it has a knock on effect – if you play well on the night it gives you more confidence in systems and things that are in place. It’s 15 men against 15 men on a rugby pitch and nobody wants to lose.”

While Edinburgh go into tonight’s encounter on the back of a defeat against Northampton Saints that nevertheless had many satisfying aspects for Solomons, their opponents, with former Murrayfield men Mike Blair and Phil Godman pulling the strings at half back, posted a comfortable win over Connacht.

Looking ahead to this evening’s match, Falcons coach Dean Richards said: “Edinburgh away is the last chance to put things in place for the start of the Premiership, and what we will be looking for is a greater understanding of how to use the ball.”