It may come as a surprise to learn that David Denton has yet to register a try in 32 appearances for Scotland.
The hard-carrying No.8 has gained a reputation for breaking lines, but getting past that last white one has so far evaded him and Saturday’s Six Nations opener against England would certainly be a perfect time to end that drought.
The Zimbabwe-born forward, who turns 26 on the eve of the match, said: “I do score a few tries but they don’t tend to be for Scotland. I don’t know why.
“It [the tryless run] just gets longer and longer. It wasn’t something that bothered me, but the boys wind me up about it a lot. I’m going to have to get on the scoresheet just to shut them up.
“John Hardie is the first one to remind me I haven’t scored a try for Scotland and he is sitting on a couple already and he’s only been here a couple of months!”
Denton made the move from Edinburgh to Bath after the World Cup and he admits it has been a tough learning curve settling into his new environment.
“If I am being honest it has been tougher in terms of the rugby,” he admitted. “It is an awesome city, a lot like Edinburgh in terms of architecture, and the guys have been great but transitioning from being in Edinburgh and Scotland to a team that plays a different style of rugby that I am used to has been challenging. I thought it was a good decision to go to Bath as it is a place that I can develop my game and be challenged in different ways. It has taken me a couple of months to get used to that. I am getting into my stride now and feeling more comfortable in the system which is good.”
Denton enhanced his reputation as a top class power carrier at the World Cup, particularly with his stand-out showing in the quarter-final against Australia, but revealed that Bath were looking to add new strings to his bow.
“The big area they want me to focus on is my link play. I have always had an ability to go forward and getting the team moving forward but they want me to link with the backs a lot more,” he explained. “There are always multiple options off plays at Bath which require my skill set to be higher than they were when I got there. I felt that is a good challenge for me. I have developed massively in that area.
“Coming back to Scotland it is good to come back to the consistency of the Scotland team. We have not changed an awful lot. It was like being hit from all angles at Bath, learning a new play book and it is nice to come back to what I am used to.”
Denton made his first start for Scotland in the home Calcutta Cup clash of 2012 – a 13-6 loss – and made an instant impact with a man-of-the-match performance.
“That is a game I will remember for a long time – it is definitely up there. Our most recent one [against Australia] as well, but because that game was my first one I framed the jersey and hung it up in my flat so that is an occasion I will look back on fondly. Man of the match as well. They don’t mean an awful lot but it is a different opinion from what the coaches might see. It is nice to have an extra thing like that on your first start.
“The downside is it was not a win. This will be my fourth time playing England, we have played good rugby but the most important thing is to get the result. The last time we played down at Twickenham it was not as close but we are usually there or thereabouts and it is important we get over the hump and get the win.”
If selected at No.8 on Saturday, there is a chance that Denton could find himself flanked by the natural opensides Blair Cowan and John Hardie once again, as he was in the World Cup quarter-final, and that is an arrangement he would be excited to rekindle.
“Yes because then I can just focus on carrying the ball, which is what I want to do,” he said. “But the main focus for me for the last few months is growing as a player. Even before I went to Bath it was about becoming as more rounded player, more than just a ball carrier. It is something I worked really hard on and it has paid dividends in terms of my turnover work and my defensive work and things like that.
“That is an area where I can make a difference on the pitch and would not have done two years ago.”
When it is suggested that Scotland could field, arguably, a more mobile back row than England on Saturday, Denton replied: “I’m not sure what the England back row will be. Again we do have some strength in the back row but the tight five as well is going to be massively important for us to win the battles around the edges and for the backs to win those battles out wide. It is so important the front five get the go-forward. We have a big pack that can compete with anyone.”