It is unquestionably Edinburgh’s biggest game of the season but centre Chris Dean will be looking to play down tomorrow’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final against La Rochelle after admitting he got too hyped up at Scarlets last weekend.
The young midfielder was going head-to-head with one of his heroes in the shape of Wales and Lions centre Jonathan Davies and is the first to concede that he got his approach to the match-up completely wrong.
Dean made a defensive miscalculation which allowed Rhys Patchell to score an easy early try off first-phase ball in Llanelli last Friday as Edinburgh slumped to a depressing sixth Guinness Pro12 defeat on the trot as they went down 26-10.
“I had a bit of a rocky one last week, I took a bit of a mental hit early on,” said the 23-year-old. “It is something I have to learn from and it’s something Hodgey [acting head coach Duncan Hodge] has been very good in helping me get through this week.
“I personally built the game up, I was playing against one of the guys I have idolised for years in Jonathan Davies and let my emotions get in my game head early on with that set-piece.
“I have never had that before when I have done something like that and it has ended up in a try for them. It was a big learning [experience] how to switch that head off and get back into the game because it took a wee while before I did get back into it. It is a learning process for me, I am learning every week. I have not been in this position very long so I am still learning all these things.”
Dean will be hoping that Hodge keeps faith in him when he names his team today and, while knowing he must keep a lid on the emotions this week, can’t hide the sense of anticipation within the squad for a big European night at BT Murrayfield against the French league leaders that will provide some escapism from what has deteriorated into a bit of a grind on the Pro12 front.
“It is knockout rugby now. I guess that puts a little bit of extra spice in it,” said the Edinburgh Academical from North Berwick. “We know that we have to perform on the day against a very good side, it is a quarter-final, which we all believe we can win. We all know it is a do-or-die game and we are lucky enough that we are back at Murrayfield.
“Everyone knows that our league [form] has not been great this year. It has been a struggle but we have brought out really good performances in Europe and we are hoping to keep that run up against a side that has been doing extremely well in the Top 14 and is regarded as one of the best sides in the world. It is a big test for us.”
Dean agrees that tomorrow evening is an opportunity to reboot a floundering season.
“It does have that feel, you are coming up against players that you don’t see week-in, week-out,” said the former Scotland under-20 and Sevens player. “It does bring that totally different side to it. You have to do a bit more analysis of them because you do not know them that well. It is good, it is exciting and you get to play against some of the top players in the world.
“You do not see that many French internationals in their side, apart from the back row [Kevin Gourdon] but they do have players like Ricky Januarie, ex-South Africa, and Brock James – their half-backs are very strong – and around the park they have a lot of very physical guys, a lot of quick guys.
“They do gel together and that is what has taken them to the top of the Top 14. That is what we are wary of, but it is the same for them – they do not know much about us. Potentially they do not expect much from us but I hope we can give them a big shock and really take it to them. You can see from our form in Europe we can play really well and produce good rugby.”
Dean hopes that Edinburgh’s dismal recent form might have one silver lining if it lulls the French side into complacency.
“I guess we are an unknown quantity for them,” he said. “Potentially they could take it slightly easily which would be wrong because we have got a really good game in us – I really do believe that.
“In recent weeks it has not shown but overall we are geared up this week. It has been a good few days of training and we are ready to go out at Murrayfield and give it everything.”