Edinburgh’s Alan Dell better than Brazil

Allan Dell won the Under-20s World Cup with South Africa
Allan Dell won the Under-20s World Cup with South Africa
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Want to know what it is like to win a World Cup in your own country? Brazilian footballers wouldn’t know – but try asking Allan Dell, one of Edinburgh Rugby’s new recruits.

Two years ago, prop forward Dell was part of the Junior Springboks who swept to glory in the global under-20 championships hosted by South Africa and by beating arch rivals New Zealand in front of a packed Newlands Stadium, Cape Town.

“As a South African, the biggest thing is to beat All Blacks and to do so in the final of a tournament they had been dominating for years was special,” Allan said in an exclusive interview with the Evening News. “It was a great honour and a privilege to be part of that.”

Go back a couple of generations, though, and Dell is qualified to play senior rugby for Scotland through a grandmother from Paisley.

So, the obvious question concerned where this amiable hulk – he is 6ft and 17st 9lb – sees his long term allegiance?

While immensely proud of his achievement with the so-called ‘Baby Boks’, Dell has a healthy sense of perspective, while shrewd enough not to paint himself into a corner.

“You are never going to forget winning a junior world championship, but it isn’t the be-all-and-end-all playing for the under-20s,” he said.

“Rather, it has to be a platform to kick on from as former colleague Hendre Pollard did when winning his first cap against Scotland this summer.

“I’ve seen a lot of good players who have slipped through the selection process for that age-group and gone on to do great things.

“Yes, I am qualified and I know how honoured I would be to represent Scotland while making my grandmother so proud.

“When I was in South Africa all she would talk to me about was my education. Yet now that I’m in Scotland she talks endlessly to me about how beautiful her country is. That, and how I should find myself a Scottish girl and settle down!

“Look too far ahead, however, and it is so easy to trip yourself up. The bigger picture is that you have to look at what you can control and for me that is getting back to full fitness, having not played since a Currie Cup semi-final for the Sharks against the Bulls in Pretoria last October because of a shoulder injury.”

That injury was sustained in a training accident and required surgery to repair a damaged pectoral muscle that left Dell “unable to even lift a plate”. It also delayed arrival in Scotland and now it is about playing catch-up.

“At least I have started running with the team and should be available to play in a couple of months,” he said.

Although Dell speaks of “coming in blind” to Northern Hemisphere standards without doubt he is already on the international radar.

“I spoke to Robbie Kempston (a former Springbok who played for Ulster) and also Scott Johnson and Mark Dodson (SRU director of rugby and CEO, respectively) about the eligibility thing,” he added.

“That’s the only contact I’ve had, but I’m aware all the sides are full of international players and the rugby is very arduous.”

The fact Messrs Johnson and Dodson have already opened negotiations, though, suggests we will soon be hearing a lot more about Dell in using that junior world cup win as a springboard to even greater honours. The question is in which colour of jersey?