David Denton admits Edinburgh are underdogs as they travel along the M8 to tackle high-flying Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun in the Guinness PRO 12 tomorrow.
Edinburgh may be coming off the back of three straight wins during which they have scored 11 tries and conceded just one, but Denton knows that new heights will have to be scaled against opponents who sit just a point off the top of the table and who haven’t lost this derby since 2011.
“We know we are going in as underdogs and it is quite a nice position to be in,” said Denton, who will make his 50th league start for Edinburgh tomorrow. “They have a lot of strengths. Their main strength is they have been together as a team for a long time.
“I was actually there for a couple of months with the academy when it was based on all of Scotland and not split into Edinburgh and Glasgow as it is now. It’s a similar set up to what it was then with a lot of the young players coming through. Gregor Townsend was a great rugby player and he has turned out to be a great coach with Glasgow.”
At the same time as acknowledging Glasgow’s strengths, Denton, the 23-times capped Scotland back row, is adamant there will be no inferiority complex in the Edinburgh camp.
“Last year we were unlucky to lose the first Murrayfield game and unfortunate that the second game a week later was postponed,” he said. “We are coming into a bit of form and we have got a lot of our injured players returning. We are going there to play a bit of rugby.”
Denton scored his first league try for Edinburgh since season 2011-12 last weekend. That touchdown put the icing on a comprehensive 48-0 home win over Benetton Treviso which has boosted morale. “It really does put a spring in the step scoring 48 points in a game,” said Denton. “Treviso have not been doing well but for us to be ruthless and clinical like we were is good. It gave us a good bit of confidence.” Last weekend’s thumping win was especially satisfying as it came after back-to-back games against London Welsh when Edinburgh probably didn’t put as many points on the board as they would have liked. Although victorious in both Challenge Cup matches against the Oxford-based outfits, their 25-13 and 24-6 triumphs failed to yield a four-try bonus point.
“This squad has a lot of good players and good systems but we have struggled for consistency,” admitted Denton, whose side sit in the bottom half of the PRO12. “Although people expected bigger victories against London Welsh, it is probably fair to say they targeted our games as games they could potentially look better in than in their premiership. A win is a win, though.”
Denton knows stakes will be high so far as adding to his Test appearances is concerned, with Glasgow liable to field rivals Ryan Wilson and Rob Harley, while Josh Strauss is due to qualify for Scotland next year. “It is so much more personal when you know someone,” he said. “It seems much more important you get one up. When there are only two teams in the country it makes it all the more spicier. There is no love lost.
“There is nothing more important than representing my country and there is a lot of competition coming through.”
Denton is still feeling his way back to full fitness after recent injury problems. He admits he is battling to make up for lost time. “I have been told on numerous occasions I need big games,” he said. “Last Friday was only my second 80 minutes in six months and I’m just loving being out there. The injury period left me pretty low and playing just a couple of games back (from concussion and a hamstring tear) and then to get a shoulder knock was tough.
“This period of our lives is geared to playing games and to be constantly sidelined is tough. It is a lot more fun being a pro rugby player when you are playing rather than just training. Hopefully I’m coming into a bit of personal form and that applies to the team, too.
“I am in a dream job getting paid to do what I’d do anyway. You have to make sure every time you go into something you come out a better player and I’ve worked on my catch-pass skills which I think have improved.”
A fully fit-and-firing Denton is always a trump card and indications are he will be one of the first names on the team sheet, with the big decision for coach Alan Solomons being whether to stick with Greg Tonks at stand-off or reinstate Tom Heathcote given the likely importance of goal-kicking.
Matt Scott looks certain to return and for the first time in months Edinburgh are starting to take on a familiar look.
Can this familiarity breed contentment in front of what will be a sell-out crowd at Scotstoun? An away win here is long overdue