Chris Dean Hungry to Utilise His Opportunities with Edinburgh

Having made his mark off the bench for Edinburgh Rugby in recent games, Chris Dean spoke to the media this week about bonus point tries, an impressive increase in fitness throughout the squad, and the opportunities provided to players not selected for international duty.

Chris Dean (right) is congratulated by Callum Hunter-Hill in a pre-season game. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby)

Gaining the try bonus point

Chris Dean came off the bench for Edinburgh in their 40-14 home win over Toulon last weekend, and it was his interception try that allowed the home side to secure the try bonus point.

Dean spoke on Monday about how it felt to score the all-important try: “Yeah, I’ll take that. It was obviously great to get the bonus point in the end. Hopefully it’ll pay us dividends later on and help our pursuit of getting out of the group.”

Asked if he was at all surprised to find himself in possession of the ball – which had been popped up by Toulon stand-off François Trinh-Duc – Dean replied: “No, it felt kind of slow-mo. He was looking and I was thinking ‘is he really going to throw it?’ and then he did.

“It was a great all-round performance and the messages at the time were ‘bonus point, bonus point, next try bonus point’, so we were out there trying to get it and it was great that we did.”

Is being ‘super-sub’ his speciality?

The win over Toulon marks the second week in a row that Dean has been the one to score the bonus-point securing try. Speaking about whether this is now his speciality, Dean’s light-hearted response was: “That’s it – just 10-minute man, try to get the bonus point, turning into that. If that’s my job, that’s my job – I’ll take it.

“It’s always frustrating on the bench as a player, but being able to come off it and affect the game in a small period of time is obviously pretty fulfilling as an individual that you can contribute in a way.”

Whilst he may not have been included in the starting 15 as of yet this season, Dean is more than prepared to play his part in the match day 23, saying: “I like to use the term ‘finisher’. You’ve got starters and finishers, and if you’re a finisher you’ve got to go on and do the same job you would if you were starting.”

He did add, however, that he is hungry for a bigger role: “I’m sure opportunities will come around at some point and I’d like to grab it.”

Impact of rejuvenated fitness and mentality

One more than evident impact that Cockerill’s rejuvenation of the squad is that the player’s fitness levels have drastically increased. Dean praised the work of both the players and the back-room staff in maintaining this aspect of their game, saying: “We’ve worked very hard in pre-season to get our fitness levels up there and we work every week on fitness.

“We don’t get a week off unfortunately from that. Our strength and conditioners are pretty serious on that front and it’s working. We are a team now that are able to work for a full 80 minutes and everyone’s able to put 100 per cent in for every minute that they’re on.”

Despite this fitness, the Edinburgh player’s couldn’t have been blamed for somewhat being in a state of disbelief at the score line. Dean believes that their renewed mentality had a lot to do with the performance, however.

Dean explained: “I think it’s more realisation in light of, actually we are this good and let’s keep going. That first break when I think Blair drew and gave a pass to Dougie and he went screaming down the wing, and you’re like, ‘yes we’re in this’.

“Leading up to the game you’re obviously very nervous playing the three time champions, but I don’t think we ever thought going into that game that we were just going out there to make up the numbers.

“We were going out there to win and we went and did that with probably our best performance of the year so far, or our most complete performance anyway.”

Opportunities provided with the absence of internationalists

It is back to the PRO14 match-ups this week though, as Edinburgh fly out to Parma to challenge Zebre. Dean spoke of the changes in opponents: “It is very different going from playing Toulon to then Zebre, but in the past, we’ve fallen at that hurdle.

“I’ve certainly been a part of it, beating a big team then slipping up the next week against a so-called or perceived lesser team and that’s now a mindset that we can’t have.”

With this in mind, he added: “So we’ll be going out there to win as well.”

There will be a different feel around the squad in the lead-up to the bout however, as so many players are currently away on international duty with Gregor Townsend’s Scotland team.

Dean admitted: “It is a bit different, a little bit unstructured outside. It’s hard to get as good a training as we usually get done, so it will be slightly disjointed over the next few weeks, but we’ve all been there and we’ve all done it and obviously the coaching staff know how to structure around the guys that will be coming back.”

The absence of these internationalists provides younger, less experienced players with opportunities. Dean was once one of those players looking for his break-out opportunity as well, so he knows how important it can be to be given one.

He said: “I’m sure when Cockers announces the team there will be a few guys who are really gagging to get out there and put their best foot forward, maybe some young guys, I’m not too sure.

“But, yeah, these international windows are a chance for young guys or guys who haven’t had much game time so far to take opportunities and they’ll be absolutely gunning for it because it’s a competitive squad and that’s what’s driving the squad even further is the competition. You know that if you slip up there’s someone hot on your heels.”

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