Edinburgh centre Chris Dean insists that Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh is already a different animal, just one game into the Guinness Pro14 campaign.
The 23-year-old scored the clinching try in last Friday’s excellent 20-10 win at Cardiff and believes the spirit the team showed at the Arms Park augurs well for making it two out of two when they host the Dragons at Myreside on Friday night.
Dean’s second-half score made amends for his error before half-time when his fresh air swipe at attempting to clear allowed Cardiff to press and pull a try back after Blair Kinghorn’s touchdown and a Duncan Weir penalty had opened up a 10-0 lead that was eventually pulled back to level pegging.
“My dad said I need to stop impersonating his golf shots. Not my finest moment,” said Dean with a rueful smile.
“It is always enjoyable to win and score a try, but obviously it is the win that really matters to us
“Like folk have said perhaps in that 10-10 scenario we maybe would have thrown it away last year, but I think this year we know that we have done the hard work and we have that mental edge that managed to get us through with a win.
“There is a real feeling, a real belief that we have got it in the tank and I think collectively we believe we can win. There was no point in the game where I thought ‘we are going to lose this’, but last year potentially we might have thought ‘this could go the wrong way or get a bit hectic’.
“So, steps in the right direction, but feet firmly on the ground.”
Dean may have got on the scoresheet but admitted that the victory in the Welsh capital was rooted firmly in firming up a defence which was far too leaky last season as Edinburgh slumped to a dispiriting ninth-place finish.
“It has been good. I think what [new defence coach] Calum MacRae has brought in is a real good defensive set-up initially,” said the former Scotland Under-20 and Sevens man.
“You know, we all know our roles pretty well and have worked hard in pre-season on it and the big guys in the middle are doing the hard work and making our job easier.
“There is better emphasis about getting up there in the face of the ball carrier and making them make their decision earlier because they earlier they decide what they are going to do with the ball it makes it easier for us to defend against. That is the only real change from last year.
“It has certainly started making life easier in the wider channels.”
Dean has enjoyed partnering former Australia Sevens international Junior Rasolea in midfield recently but knows new signing Robbie Fruean is back fit to add to the competition at centre.
He said: “I have always thought Juns was a really good player, even in training and things you could see his quality last year.
“He worked very hard in pre-season and is a lot fitter than he was. He is moving around the park a lot better and he is an experienced player, here is obviously different to Super Rugby, but I really enjoy playing with him. Robbie obviously carries a lot of experience with him and the best thing about him is that he is happy to pass that experience onto you.
“As a younger guy he is always looking to help you, whether he is in the squad or not, and he is a very influential guy around the team and it’ll be good to see him in an Edinburgh jersey.”
Dean admitted that he was looking to make tweaks to his game this season, with a bit more ball carrying for example, but nothing drastic.
“Yes, here and there but not a particular change,” he said. “The move at the minute just potentially seems to see me getting my hands on the ball more which I do enjoy.
“It is a part of the game that I can get better at, it is not a direct change in my role, but it is working out that way.”