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Dickinson profiting from capital gains

Given Matt Stevens' infamous dalliance with cocaine a few years ago, you hesitate to praise a prop for his ability to sniff a white line, but an exception may be made for Alasdair Dickinson.

His future might still be uncertain but Alasdair Dickinson is feeling at home at Murrayfield for both club and country. Picture: SNS
His future might still be uncertain but Alasdair Dickinson is feeling at home at Murrayfield for both club and country. Picture: SNS

In his first stint with Edinburgh, between 2003 and 2007, Dickinson collected tries with pleasing regularity, and the score he claimed for himself for Scotland against Japan last month was proof enough that the old instincts are still intact.

Which is not to say that the 30-year-old forward is quite in the Tim Visser league just yet, rather to point out to those who would dismiss him as a set-piece lightweight that he does offer a few other qualities around the park. And lest we get bogged down in that particular piece of stereotyping, it is also worth pointing out that, since Dickinson established himself as Edinburgh's first-choice loosehead this season, the capital club's scrum has actually been going rather well.

The stain on his reputation in the tight owes much to events on that desperate afternoon in the Stade de France in 2009 when, after being ordered by former Scotland coach Frank Hadden to do a shift in the unfamiliar tighthead berth, Dickinson had a horribly uncomfortable time of it in the set piece. He came back strongly enough, winning a stack of caps over the next two years, but the damage had been done. A combination of injuries and the emergence of Ryan Grant meant he slipped off the Scotland radar screen thereafter.

That Edinburgh were prepared to offer him just a one-year contract to tempt him back to the capital this year suggested that they were not entirely convinced that he could still cut the mustard as a top-level prop. Yet Dickinson's performances over the past couple of months have been a revelation. They earned him a recall to the Scotland side as well, invitations he honoured with yet more good work on the Murrayfield pitch.

So he's looking to extend his Edinburgh deal? "I'm not looking that far ahead," he said, though not entirely convincingly. "I am really enjoying playing for Edinburgh so I don't know what will happen. You have to speak to the coach. Nothing yet. Things might happen in the future but at the moment I'll just keep playing and see what happens."

Pressed a little harder, Dickinson admitted that staying with Edinburgh does have its attractions. "We are going well at the moment," he acknowledged. "I have been playing most weeks and we are getting better each week. There is no reason why I would want to leave."

There were rumours about a year ago that the shoulder problems that had bedevilled Dickinson were serious enough to bring his career to a premature end. So much for rumours. To all intents and purposes, some lengthy spells on the sidelines have served only to rejuvenate him as a player and sharpen his appetite. He is looking forward with relish to Sunday's Heineken Cup match with Gloucester at Murrayfield.

Small wonder. It was to the West Country side that Dickinson first took himself when he decided to step put of the substantial shadow of Allan Jacobsen at Edinburgh six years ago. At that point, he had just won his first Scotland cap - against New Zealand in the 2007 World Cup, when his direct opponent was Carl Hayman - and he was determined to win a few more. The choice of Gloucester was, as he explained at the time, a deliberate effort to improve his set-piece abilities in an environment where such qualities are valued.

Dickinson spent four years there before moving up the road to Sale, but he has fond memories of the tight-knit group he was part of at Kingsholm. Only a few of the players of his era are still on Gloucester's books, but the culture of the club impressed him.

"Gloucester is one of the proper English old-school clubs that have traditional values," he said. "They have a great ground at Kingsholm and a tradition of doing well in big competitions. It is a mindset thing. They are a big club that expect big things.

"They haven't had a decent run in the Premiership this season, so they will definitely target us. They will look at this as a game for them to get their season back on track as much as for us to put a marker down. They expect big things and they will not under-estimate us at all. They will come up here with all guns blazing."

With one win (against Munster) and one loss (against Perpignan) on their Heineken Cup record so far, Edinburgh are in a make-or-break situation. Another defeat would not exactly sound the death knell, but it would have the undertakers reaching for their measuring tapes. Against that, a win would put them in the driving seat, with everything to play for in the return match at Kingsholm seven days later.

Yet Dickinson is not minded to overstate the situation. "Every pool game in the Heineken tends to be a must-win," he said. "Statistically that's the way it goes. You win your home games and then try and get something from your away games.

"But every game is a huge game whether it is in the league or the Heineken Cup. For us to move forward we must put in a huge performance and get a win. To get better as a club, every match is a must-win."

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