CHRIS DEAN is set to become the 34th player to have represented Edinburgh on 100 or more occasions on Saturday evening, but it won’t be much cause for celebration unless he and his team can claim a surprise scalp against Sale Sharks which they need to keep their European Champions Cup campaign alive.

Even if the capital side pick-up bonus-point wins in all three of their remaining pool matches, their progress to the last eight is still reliant on results elsewhere going their way. However, the bigger issue is that a win over the Sharks would inject some much-needed positive energy after a faltering start to the season, which they can carry into their 1872 Cup double-header against Glasgow at the end of the month.

It won’t be easy playing away to a side currently sitting fourth in the English Premiership, but Dean says that Edinburgh are determined to prove that the bold statistic hanging over their head of two wins from eight games played so far in the 2020-21 campaign does not accurately reflect what Richard Cockerill’s team is all about.

“A team without confidence is always going to struggle going into a match,” he said. “You’ve got to believe in yourselves and believe in the hard work you’ve put in, and that the processes you’ve put in place are going to work on the day.

“We know it works because a lot of our games have been so close. Look at last weekend against La Rochelle, the top team in France, when we were there at the death with opportunities to win.

“In years gone by, we started better and put ourselves in better situations, so we’re probably a little bit let down by the start we’ve had this season – but there’s still a lot of rugby to go so we’ll certainly look at restarting our season this weekend.”

In many respects, Edinburgh have been the victims of their own success in recent months with more than a dozen key men being called up to international duty during the Autumn Test window – but Dean argues that morale has not been fundamentally damaged by the team’s recent losing streak, and he adds that the long-term benefit easily outweighs the short-term pain.

“It’s difficult,” he reflected. “You create a club environment and perform at a level to push your players on to further honours, but then we have 14 players away with the international squad recently, including players like Jaco van der Walt and Duhan van der Merwe who have been with us in this period for the past three years and were a real miss this year.

“So, 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.

“What it has done is give younger guys opportunities, which will only benefit us in the future. Bringing in 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 into the roles of the guys above them.

“So, I guess you have to look for positives in this situation, and having the young guys exposed to that level can only benefit them in the future, and us as a club.”

Dean believes we started to see a flavour of the side Edinburgh can be during last week’s narrow loss to La Rochelle and says that now the international players have had another seven days to re-integrate into the club environment the team can go one better this week.

And he adds that ongoing uncertainty as to the financial health of the Scottish Rugby Union due to the impact of Covid, which is likely to be a major problem for head coach Richard Cockerill as he looks to re-sign the raft leading players who are coming out of contract at the end of the campaign, is not a distraction.

“Our mindset is very much rugby focused, especially over the next week as we look to get our season started,” he said. “Week to week, your goal changes and your mindset changes, and I’m sure guys that are out of contract at the end of the season have other things on their minds from time to time, but it’s certainly not a topic of conversation that comes into the squad.”