Centre Michael Allen admits there is a danger he may lose his bearings if he returns to his home city on Friday evening in the colours of Edinburgh.
The 25-year-old Belfast boy signed for Alan Solomons’ side back in April, but only made his debut at BT Murrayfield off the bench in last Friday’s win over the Dragons after suffering a shoulder injury early in pre-season.
This week Edinburgh travel to Allen’s old club Ulster in the Guinness Pro12 and the player joked: “I’m sure I’ll make it into the right dressing-room, but when I run down the tunnel I will have to remember to run right to the away benches.”
Allen was delighted to finally get on the pitch for his new club for the last eight minutes of Friday’s 32-13 victory over the Welshman and then played a club game for Hawick against Heriot’s the following day.
His shoulder is now fully recovered and he is understandably desperate to be involved in the squad that travels to Ulster this week after a less than ideal start to his Edinburgh career.
“It was pre-season in a wrestling drill during a conditioning session,” Allen explained of the injury he suffered in the summer. “It happened in the first two weeks of me being here. We tried to rehab it but it didn’t work and no progress was being made. I was still in the gym but certain positions were still weak so something had to be done and it is better now.
“I had full shoulder surgery repair. It was going to be 20 weeks but rehab went well and I made my targets every week and I was 16 weeks out – quicker than expected but felt long.”
A former pupil of Methodist College Belfast, Allen’s peers included Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy and Paddy Jackson, who also joined Ulster’s Academy straight from school.
He said: “I am still friendly with them and there have been a few text messages this week. Everybody there is excited to see me again.
“You don’t go six years and not become friendly with your work colleagues and they become your best friends but not for the 80 minutes this weekend.”
Allen made 39 appearances for Ulster from 2012, represented Emerging Ireland a couple of years ago and has aspirations to follow the likes of Jackson and Gilroy into the Test arena.
“I just want to play my best rugby and if I play well I could maybe one day play for Ireland,” he said. “There is a pathway into international rugby. The confidence for me just now with my shoulder is to simply get back hitting people, getting hit, getting smashed and that will be me getting better. They will do that against me this weekend which is fair enough.”
Solomons will name his team tomorrow and Allen is hoping he gets the chance to return to the Kingspan Stadium which has developed a reputation as one of the best venues in the competition.
“It is fantastic, 18,000 people right beside the pitch with the brass band up the back and everybody singing along to Sweet Caroline or Galway Girl and what have you. It is one of many players favourite places to play because of that atmosphere.
“Some teams may feel it is hostile but a lot of the boys here have told me it’s one of their favourite places to play.”
Meanwhile, stand-off Phil Burleigh was delighted Edinburgh notched their first try-scoring bonus point of the season in that win over the Dragons but concedes it was far from a perfect performance.
“I think the bonus point was important,” said the former Otago Highlander. “They are going to count at the end of the season and we need to get as much as we can really. We were happy with the win definitely and the five points, but we’ve still got more to work on.
“We probably left three or four tries out there I think and we could have really put them away in the first half and we’ve got to look to do that to the bigger teams too.”