Alasdair Dickinson’s return to action this evening will bring leadership and experience to an Edinburgh Rugby side looking to recover from an awful February, according to acting head coach Duncan Hodge.
The 33-year-old loosehead prop has been out injured since Boxing Day with a foot problem, but is back in the starting XV for the Guinness PRO12 clash with the Ospreys at Myreside (7.35pm).
Before he played three club matches in December, Dickinson had been on the sidelines for a few months with a hamstring injury picked up on Scotland duty last summer in Japan.
As a result his 2016/17 has been one to forget and he will be looking forward to helping his club side try to regain track after four losses from four last month.
Hodge said: “We knew Dicko was always going to be ready around this time and it is great to have him back. He brings great experience especially at a time when we have been struggling with our props and Jack Cosgrove is now injured too.
“Over this past year he has had a tough time and has had to put in a lot of hard work to get back.
“He has been there and done it and that is where Dicko helps this group of players. He is not a ‘stand up and shout’ type of guy, but he tells players what he needs them to do in a game. That type of leadership has been lacking in our squad of late.
“Some of our younger guys have had great exposure that we never envisaged and that has been great, but we have been lacking the leadership skills that Dicko brings.
“He has nous and knowledge and puts an arm round the shoulder and says to his team-mates ‘this is how we are going to solve that problem’ and I am pleased to have him back.”
With Scotland’s loosehead position having been shared between Allan Dell and Gordon Reid so far in the Six Nations, many will now wonder if 58-times capped Dickinson will come back into international reckoning for the England and Italy matches.
“I have no idea if that will happen. Just having him back in the squad with us and ready to get some rugby is great,” Hodge stated. “We will see how long he lasts out there in this match, we can’t push that. Hopefully he plays well, gets his confidence up and goes from there.
“In terms of the last nine months his rugby has been extremely limited and I think we will know more after this match. Certainly in December when he played those three games he was a bit rusty and I think it would be a big ask [for him to play for Scotland v England].
“He is medically clear and fit, it is just match fitness that is the issue. It is all very well running around, but it is a different story mauling, rucking, making tackles and such like.”
Dickinson comes into the starting XV for Cosgrove who has sustained an ankle injury and could be out for six weeks.
In the other starting prop position tonight will be Murray McCallum and the 20-year-old has signed his first full-time professional contract to keep him at the club until at least 2019. Duncan Weir replaces the injured Jason Tovey at stand-off with Grant Gilchrist coming into the second-row for Fraser McKenzie who has tweaked his back.
And Hodge has called for a “hard-nosed” focus as they aim to down the Welsh side who are second in the table.
“They’re a good side, but there’s definite areas which we think we can have a go at,” he said. “We’ll come out doing what we are good at and try to influence them. Teams are only as good as you allow them to be and I think we need to have a hard-nosed focus on ourselves.”