Edinburgh veteran Dickinson relishing clash with young Warrior
When Alasdair Dickinson was getting his first taste of a festive inter-city derby a dozen years ago, his likely opposite number this Boxing Day would have been enjoying his haul from Santa.
Zander Fagerson was only eight when apprentice loosehead Dickinson came off the bench at Murrayfield in December 2004 for his first senior match against Glasgow.
That was in the days before the match had been rebranded as the revived 1872 Cup and when future Warriors stalwarts like Alastair Kellock and Dougie Hall were alongside Dickinson in Edinburgh colours.
The 33-year-old is now recovered from the long-term leg injury which kept him out from the summer tour to Japan through an autumn Test series when tighthead Fagerson, who turns 21 next month, added to his burgeoning reputation and took his cap tally to four with appearances in all three games.
Dickinson is now relishing going head-to-head with the youngster as Scotland’s two pro teams clash at the national stadium.
“I get on really well with him, he’s a good kid, working hard and playing some outstanding stuff,” said Dickinson. “He’s been blooded internationally as well. He’s playing really well and has definitely been a standout for Glasgow. He’ll be champing at the bit this week and it’ll be a tough battle.”
Fagerson has kicked on from the November Tests and played his part in Glasgow’s fabulous European Champions Cup double over Racing 92 and Dickinson has taken notice.
“I was impressed with the whole squad really, the props take the credit when it’s due and the flak when that’s due, but the guys working around him were working hard, and you could tell what a good unit they have.
“Knowing Zander, Gordy [Reid] and Fraz [Fraser Brown] with Scotland, we know how passionate they’re front row guys are about scrummaging. They’ve got an outstanding scrummage, the boys coming off the bench or whoever starts.
“They’ve got a pretty good record of not getting penalised and that speaks for itself in where they are the league and in Europe. Last week they were winning pens against Racing, that shows how good they are.”
Dickinson and Fagerson both attended the High School of Dundee, though the older man joked: “He scooted off to Strathallan, Dundee wasn’t posh enough for him!
“The same school but a lot of years apart. I get on great with him, he’s got a great ethic and he wants to learn, every time he’s at Scotland he asks questions and he loves it, young keen, and mad for it, and it’s a great thing for Scotland to have that level of competition.
“He’s just 20, we’ve got WP Nel who is 29-30 and it’s great to have that, they’ll both push each other.”
Nel continues to recover from a neck injury and Dickinson agrees that the loss of the first-choice Edinburgh and Scotland No 3, added to improvement in the Warriors pack, means this year is likely to be a more even battle up front than last year, when the Capital side dominated the forwards battle and won both games to retain the trophy.
“They’ll be coming after us, that’s the way it is,” said the 58-times capped loosehead. “They’ve improved loads over the last couple of years, especially front five. The guys playing at the minute are flying high and full of confidence and that’s something we have to take away.
“We know how hard it’ll be, they’ve got a couple in the boiler room in Swinno [Tim Swinson] and Jonny [Gray] who are on a fire as well. We’ve got Ben Toolis who has been outstanding this season, Gilco [Grant Gilchrist] and Big Fraz [McKenzie] as well. It’ll be a tough battle up front.
“[Not having] WP a big blow, he’s shown his class last couple of seasons. It’s good to have big Bergy [Simon Berghan] back, he’s been out with a toe injury, he’s another prospect coming through, he’s still pretty young.
“WP missing is a massive blow but getting himself right is a big thing, it’ll add a couple of years to his career. We deal with it, it’s pro sport and you just have to crack on and deal with injuries.
“I’ve been there; he’s actually flying at the minute and the rest will probably have done him good, but he’s a massive loss.”