Edinburgh Rugby prop Allan Dell is relishing this weekend’s change of focus as the Capital side launch their European Challenge Cup campaign with a match against London Irish at the Madejski Stadium in Reading.
Edinburgh have fared well in the continental competition over recent seasons and Dell is happy to kick-off this latest tournament with an away fixture.
“I think it’s fantastic that we’ve got London Irish. They are always a difficult side to play against. It will be good playing them away and then we get them at home later in the competition,” he said.
The 25-yea-old, who has been out with a back injury since an action-packed summer that saw him set off on Scotland’s tour then receive a call up to the British & Irish Lions, made his first appearance of the season when he came off the bench against Zebre at Myreside on Friday.
Dell made an instant impression, bolstering the Edinburgh scrum against a combative Italian unit and helping the hosts to a slender 16-15 victory that halted a three match losing run.
“We could have closed the game out a bit earlier,” he admitted of an encounter that delivered a positive result but a far from convincing performance. However, he sees Zebre as a vastly more challenging proposition than in the past. “They play a very attractive brand of rugby and it’s terrible to try to defend against. When you get it wrong, they can run the length of the field. They are a good side and they stuck at it. They will get a few more wins I think this season.”
The loosehead, who is now in his fourth season at the club and agreed a deal in the summer that will keep him at Edinburgh until May 2019, is now focused on establishing himself before he contemplates any involvement with the Scotland squad for the forthcoming autumn test series.
He looks set to start on the bench again on Saturday as Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill manages his return to competitive action, despite a front row injury crisis. That situation has been offset to some extent by a series of solid performances by Darryl Marfo, who arrived from Bath in the close season. Dell acknowledges the need to exercise some caution.
“It’s been frustrating because I have been out for two and a half months. This is my fifth week back in training and I have had one week with the team. Trying to get back up to speed is just frustrating. You push yourself quite hard but it’s been frustrating.
“You can’t simulate match fitness, especially a game like that where it’s moving and it’s physical. It’s fantastic to get back and get the lungs going,” he added, admitting that his first run in Friday’s game had him blowing hard.
However, the value he brings to the Edinburgh pack was evident in his brief contribution, albeit against a tiring opposition side, when the hosts won two scrum penalties and held out for a win that will provide a timely boost.
“It’s just our job. It’s collective – it’s an eight-man scrum these days,” he said modestly before insisting that bad luck and poor decisions had played a part in Edinburgh’s sequence of disappointing results in games that had included some good performances.
They will be seeking a positive start to a competition in which they have twice reached the knockout phase in the past three years, exiting in the quarter-final against La Rochelle last season and losing against Gloucester in the final two years earlier.