IN the circumstances, it seemed rather churlish to ask Chris Dean about his one glaring error during Edinburgh’s 10-20 victory in Cardiff last Friday night. Fortunately, the 23-year-old centre took it in his stride.
“The coach hasn’t actually said anything yet, but my dad said I need to stop impersonating his golf shots! Not my finest moment…,” he said of the fresh air kick on his own line which gifted the Blues their only try of the match five minutes before half-time.
It just so happened that Richard Cockerill was sitting to Dean’s left at Mondays press conference, and when asked for his thoughts on that particular incident he cracked a wry smile. “What the **** were you doing?” the coach wondered aloud. “He did all the hard work and then tried to spoon it with the outside of his right foot around the corner,” he added with exaggerated incredulity.
The baby-faced Dean looked even more like a chastened schoolboy than usual. “I don’t think I’ll bring that one out again,” he mumbled sheepishly.
Cockerill the bull-dog then showed that he can sometimes be a bit of a pussy-cat.
“Well, you made it up – you scored one and gave one away – so we’ll let him off,’ he smiled.
It was an interesting insight into the psychology of the Edinburgh squad at the moment.
On another day that mistake might have been more-costly to Edinburgh, and Cockerill might have been less forgiving, but context is everything and we are looking back at an away win, which is a valuable commodity in the recent history of the capital outfit.
Dean has clearly built up enough credit with his new boss to be afforded the odd blunder. Cockerill has made it clear from day one that he doesn’t expect to oversee an overnight revolution, but plans to put faith in a group of young players to learn on the hoof about what it takes to become a winning team. There will be bumps in the road along the way, but that’s okay so long as the attitude is right.
Dean perfectly fits the bill of what Cockerill is looking for: young, hungry, tough and talented – not yet the finished article but ready to move hell and earth to get there. It felt like he was at the centre of nearly everything Edinburgh did on Friday night: good or bad. That compares favourably with the trend at the club last year, when far too many members of the team were not at the centre of anything.
“There is a real feeling, a real belief, that we have got it in the tank and I think, collectively we believe we can win. There was no point in the game where I thought: ‘We are going to lose this’. Whereas last year, potentially, we might have thought: ‘This could go the wrong way’ – and got a bit hectic,” says the player.
“I think this year we know that we have done the hard work and we have that mental edge that managed to get us through with a win.”
“So, Friday was a step in the right direction, but feet firmly on the ground.”
A big factor in Edinburgh’s success on Friday was the team’s defence, and Dean was quick to praise the clarity brought to that area by Calum MacRae, who joined the Edinburgh set-up during the summer after leading the Scotland 7s team to unprecedented success during the last three seasons.
“We all know our roles pretty well and have worked hard in pre-season on it – the big guys in the middle are doing the hard work and making our job [further out] easier,” said Dean.
“There is better emphasis about getting up there in the face of the ball carrier and making them make their decision earlier, because the earlier they decide what they are going to do with the ball the easier it is for us to defend against. That is the only real change from last year.”
It doesn’t sound like rocket science but it doesn’t need to be. The focus for Edinburgh at the moment is on attitude.