More misfortune for Scotland loosehead Alasdair Dickinson presents another opportunity for Allan Dell this weekend as Edinburgh look to bounce back from 1872 Cup misery in Italy.
Dickinson limped off during the 25-12 defeat by Glasgow on Boxing Day with a lower leg injury just a couple of weeks after he had returned from a six-month hamstring lay-off. He is being assessed by medical staff, with no indication as yet how long he faces out this time.
Dell filled in for Dickinson at Test level last month, earning his first three Scotland caps against Australia, Argentina and Georgia, and will now look to provide a solid platform in Parma as Edinburgh face Zebre in a must-win Hogmanay clash.
The Italian team are bottom of the Guinness Pro12 standings with just one win in nine matches but Dell and Edinburgh don’t need any reminding of the painful fact that the solitary victory came against themselves when Zebre snatched a shock 19-14 win in the Scottish capital at the end of October.
They also lost on their last visit to Parma and know that, sitting third bottom in the table, the prospect of another defeat is a nightmare scenario.
“If we lose it I don’t want to think about that,” said Dell after Edinburgh training at the Oriam performance centre. The South Africa-born prop was part of the team that lost to Zebre and put a spoke in the wheels of what had been an encouraging start to Duncan Hodge’s interim coaching reign in the wake of Alan Solomons’ departure.
“We had just beaten Harlequins, were flying, then lost to Zebre at home, and fair play they did well in that game, but then we beat Ulster and that’s the inconsistency. For some reason we’ve struggled over there and I don’t know why that is, but this time we’re going there knowing that we simply have to win this game.”
Dell stressed the need for Edinburgh to travel with a positive mindset and not to dwell on defeats like the one by Zebre and against Glasgow on Monday.
“We don’t want to look back much, we want to look forward,” he said. “But you can see what being clinical does for you. We had opportunities in their [Glasgow’s] half but couldn’t finish it, particularly with good driving maul positions, which just were not clinical enough.
“We had a good maul last season and we still have the same personnel and systems, but we’re our own worst enemies.
“I’m not sure whether it’s a lack of concentration or taking it for granted, knowing that last season if we do this we’ll get that outcome and so this season just going through the motions a bit.”
Edinburgh’s maddening inconsistency remains an ongoing problem and Dell has no explanation for it. “If I knew the answer I’d probably be the best paid head doctor in the world,” he said. “You know what it’s like, sometimes you wake up differently and you don’t know what the problem is. So you just have to deal with the things you can control and be confident.
“If every player does his job then you know the man next to you is doing his job and you don’t have to worry about what’s going on elsewhere, which takes away from your own concentration.”
Dell is clearly hoping that his involvement in the autumn Tests will lead to a taste of the Six Nations in February, but he added: “I don’t think anyone will be thinking about that. The next game is Zebre and if I play badly I know that I jeopardise other guys’ chances of getting into the national team for the Six Nations, and my own.
“We’re fortunate in this sport that we always have a game the next week to rectify it, and we have a whole month ahead if you’re wanting to play into that [Scotland] squad for those games.”