Allan Dell admits he has developed a taste for international rugby after savouring his first bite of Scotland action.
And he has warned Edinburgh colleague Alasdair Dickinson he will have a fight on his hands to reclaim his place.
The prop, pictured right, deputised for his loosehead rival during the autumn Test series while Dickinson was recovering from a hamstring injury and served up three encouraging displays in the clashes with Australia, Argentina and Georgia.
Dickinson is expected back in time for the RBS 6 Nations early next year, but Dell does not plan on simply handing his jersey back.
He said: “I really enjoyed my first three caps. The international game is a lot quicker, a lot more physical than the club game. I remember saying after the Australia game that I found the pace not only quicker physically, but also in the head as well.
“But all in all it was a great experience over the three games. That was my little learning block and after this I need to take it forward and start doing something bigger with it. Now I’ve had a taste of what international rugby is about, I don’t want to give it up.
“Alasdair and guys like WP Nel are phenomenal rugby players, especially in the set-piece. They are old dogs with experience but all you can do as a prop is learn in the trenches. I’m fortunate to be at the same club as those guys and I just learn as much as I can from them. I’m grateful for that but at the same time I don’t want to give up that jersey.”
Dell – born in South Africa but eligible for Scotland thanks to his Paisley-born grandmother – was first called up for international duty in the build-up to the 2014 autumn Tests but had to wait another two years to make the grade with Vern Cotter’s side.
And the 24-year-old admits the head coach was right not to throw him into action too early. “I was involved with the national team back in 2014 but personally I felt I wasn’t ready at that point,” he said. “But coming into these three games I had no doubts I could handle it. Obviously you get nervous and little things come into your head but at no point did I doubt myself.”
Dell is not the only new face to have been blooded this month. Fellow prop Zander Fagerson also took the opportunity to impress, as did back-rowers Magnus Bradbury and Hamish Watson.
And Dell feels Cotter is building a squad with the perfect blend of energy and experience. He said: “The fantastic thing about this team is that a lot of the guys in key positions are quite young but they are gaining experience. If you can get a core of your team aged 24, 25 or 26 with a lot of caps, that just bodes well for the coming years because you will only get better from that point.
“You can see it with Finn Russell. When he first came on the scene, he was exciting and you never knew what he was going to do. But now he’s built up some experience. You can only learn by being in these type of pressure situations. You don’t do that by holding tackle bags. “We had a tough lesson when we lost narrowly against Australia but we showed against Argentina we had learned from it and came back to get a good win.”