CHRIS DEAN is one of a handful of Edinburgh players returning to the fray at a very handy time for head coach Richard Cockerill. The centre has recovered from a minor tear in his quad, sustained just under a month ago, and is expected to play a key role for the capital outfit as they enter a potentially season defining run of four games – which takes in matches against the three leading Irish provinces plus Conference B rivals the Dragons during the Six Nations window.
On a personal level, the timing looks pretty handy, too, because if reports in the English press are to be believed, Matt Scott is on his way back to his hometown club this summer, meaning Dean will want to get as much game time as he can under his belt to state his case for starting next season near the top of the pecking order in a highly competitive Edinburgh midfield.
“We’ve had a reasonably fortunate run of games in the past few weeks, but we’ve now got some real tests ahead of ourselves,” said Dean. “Regardless of internationalists being away, these clubs have got good squads to fill in the gaps during this period, so we need to fire into Leinster at home this week then go to Ulster and turn them over as well.”
Edinburgh then head down to Newport to take on the Dragons, before hosting Munster at home on 2nd March.
“We really are building our own momentum this year, creating a culture and a drive within the squad, and most of all competition. Over the last couple of years, you wouldn’t have to wait until the team-sheet came out to see who was playing, whereas now you don’t know who is going to be in the side, and that competitiveness really drives people to train and play well to be in the team,” continued Dean.
“Training revolves more around being able to show what you can do, and we’re at the stage now that if you don’t play well at the weekend then you are thinking you are going to get bad news on Monday morning. That maybe doesn’t sound like a good thing but it is internally in the environment.”
“Even though you are competing hard, and some games you are not in, the culture has grown where you want whoever is in that shirt to put their best foot forward for Edinburgh.”
As reported yesterday, Simon Berghan and John Hardie have returned from suspension this week, and while Berghan is set to jump straight back into the national cause, that should mean that Murray McCallum will be released back down to play for his club against Leinster on Friday night. Nathan Fowles has already been released by the national set-up so will train with the squad full-time this week.
Duncan Weir is still a week or two away from being fit to play. The Offside Line has learned that the stand-off was close to going out on a short-term loan deal to Worcester Warriors – the English Premiership side which the SRU were recently linked to in a bizarre buy-out scheme – as he battles back to full fitness after almost four months out with an abdominal injury, but the 26-year-old was not going to be ready to play when Worcester needed him, so that is now unlikely to happen now. Weir’s contract with Edinburgh runs out at the end of the season.