In any list of best rugby nicknames ever, the one applied to former Australia captain John Eales would have to figure pretty close to the top.

In the Wallaby dressing room, Eales was known as Nobody's, an appellation that confused outsiders until one of his team-mates spilled the beans. "As in Nobody's perfect," the whistleblower explained.

Ah, those fun-loving Wallabies, but you could kind of see their point. Eales wasn't just the outstanding lock in world rugby at the time, but he appeared flawless in every other regard, as well. He was the consummate diplomat. He was a brilliant leader. He was a hugely likeable individual. He could kick goals. He was, well, perfect.

Loading article content

A bit like Dave Denton in fact. Okay, Denton's goal-kicking skills have yet to be revealed, but he was eerily good when he made his breakthrough last season, initially into the Edinburgh ranks and thereafter as a shoo-in for Scotland. He had pace, power, aggression and skill, and long before the end of his first Six Nations game, against England, he was being anointed as a Lions player of the future. He was Scottish rugby's golden child.

Small wonder that he should feel just a touch nervous when the new season got under way a couple of months ago. The 22-year-old had missed Scotland's successful summer tour to Australasia due to an ankle injury, but alongside the understandable anxiety around getting back into a winning side, he also had the nagging doubt that things had gone just a little too well for him last season. What if that was it?

He almost shudders when the point is raised. "I was writing my goals at the start of the season," he begins. "It's a bit of a cringe but everyone does it. It was number one on my list: make sure I don't suffer from second-season syndrome."

A noble pursuit, but the season had hardly begun when Denton appeared to go down with a serious dose of the ailment. He picked up a minor injury in Edinburgh's second RaboDirect PRO12 game, against Cardiff, and he looked horribly out of sorts in the first half of the club's 45-0 Heineken Cup horror-show against Saracens at Murrayfied a few weeks ago. He made more handling errors in the first 20 minutes than he had in the whole of last season, and wasn't much better in Edinburgh's loss to Munster eight days later.

In fairness, he doesn't dispute the point, going so far as to accept responsibility for the defeats. "At the start of the season I wasn't happy with how I was playing, particularly in the two Heineken Cup games," he says. "The results showed that individuals weren't playing well, but if I had done my job well and got us on the front foot I think the results would have been better.

The good news is Denton's lapse may be temporary. "I felt very happy with my performance [last Friday] against Scarlets. I felt like I was back to my best. I felt like it was getting us on the front foot in attack and I was putting in some big tackles in defence, which essentially is my job. That's what I want to bring to this team."

The team in question now is Scotland, as the national squad has just completed its training camp in St Andrews ahead of a November Test series that begins against the All Blacks on Sunday week. Although used on the blindside by Edinburgh, the likelihood that Denton will return to the No.8 berth he prefers with Scotland was enhanced when Kelly Brown, who seems more of a specialist blindside now than ever, was chosen as captain by coach Andy Robinson earlier this week.

But what of the Edinburgh hangover? The capital side have had a run of wretched results and it is hard to imagine that their Scotland players have not been scarred by the experience. Can they pick themselves up to put in a worthwhile shift against the All Blacks?

Denton admits there is an issue there. "It is tough because those feelings are in the back of your mind," he says. "But you can't come into this with any thoughts of your club or your team-mates in the club environment. We are a team here. Everyone has to be on the same page, working towards the same goal, which is to beat New Zealand.

"There's a lot of pressure on me to get back into this team. It is a very tough back row to get into, as it always is in Scottish rugby. At the moment the depth we have there is outstanding. It's a massive challenge for me to get into this team but I don't want to miss the opportunity of playing against the best side in the world."