Edinburgh’s recent struggles “don’t reflect the team we can be” and they can begin to rebuild with their second Heineken Champions Cup game in Sale this week, believes Chris Dean.
The centre will make his 100th appearance for the club at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday, a personal milestone he’s been determined to reach. But despite the pride of having that etched on his jersey the result against the Gallagher Premiership side comes first, and building Edinburgh back after a tough spell.
It’s a tricky situation when so many players are on international call and not available, he said.
“You create a club environment and perform at a level to push your players on to further honours, but then you have 14 players away with the international squad recently,” he pointed out.
“Players like Jaco (van der Walt) and Duhan (van der Merwe) were with us in this period for during the past three years have made their debuts, and the calibre of player they are has helped in our situation in the past when international windows are on.
“The period we’ve just had doesn’t reflect the team that we can be. We haven’t performed as well as we could have, but then we’ve had a lot to adapt to and a lot of change with the circumstances around Covid and players not being released.
‘Young guys exposed to the top level will benefit’
“But it gave younger guys opportunities, which will only benefit us in the future. Bringing the likes of Jack Blain, who played really well in the four games he had, or Nathan Chamberlain being thrown in at the deep end, is only going to benefit us when these guys start to step in to the roles of the guys above them.
“Having the young guys exposed to that level can only benefit them in the future, and us as a club.”
A century of appearances puts him alongside heroes he watched growing up like Simon Taylor, Simon Webster and Mike Blair, and the arrival of Richard Cockerill at the club three years ago made him believe it was attainable.
‘Always wanted to play for Edinburgh’
“I always wanted to play for Edinburgh,” he said. “So there’s that underlying sub-conscious connection to the club which I grew up supporting, whose jerseys I grew up wearing. It’s been a pleasure to wear the jersey.
“The chance of 100 became apparent when Cockers arrived. I knew his coming in was a big deal, with the aura he bought with him it was pretty apparent that it was going to be very cut-throat as to whether or not you cut the gravy with him.
“So when I played a fair bit under him in his first two seasons and we had a decent run in Europe, I could see that the number was getting closer and I was pretty sure I could make it to 100 if I pushed myself.
“It’s a massive privilege because when I set my career goals out one of them was to be a club centurion. I’ve always felt it’s a pretty special thing to be a part of that club, to have shown that loyalty to the club, especially one that I grew up supporting.
“So it’ll mean a huge amount to me and I’ll certainly go out there with a huge amount of pride. Wearing that shirt with a 100 on it will be pretty special.”