EDINBURGH’S bid for rejuvenation has been given a significant boost by David Denton’s decision to turn down a move to the English or French leagues and pledge his future to the Scottish side.
The club’s revival was never going to be an overnight process and there were fears that the change of management had come too late to persuade the 23-year-old back row, currently one of the most valuable players in the Scottish game never mind at Edinburgh, to stay.
Denton’s agent had offers coming in from Aviva Premiership and French Top 14 clubs, with Leicester and Gloucester among those in the frame, and it is understood that a move could have brought a significant pay increase even on the improved terms agreed in his new two-year contract to stay in the Scottish capital.
Two key areas seem to have persuaded him to stay – the respect he has for the new coaching team and how he thinks they will improve the team and himself, and his desire to do everything in his power to be part of Scotland’s 2015 World Cup campaign having been included as a youngster in the 2011 training squad but not handed a ticket to New Zealand.
“I’m delighted to have signed,” he began. “There was a temptation to go elsewhere and it was fairly well known that I was talking to other clubs, but I’ve put a lot of thought into this.
“The new coaching set-up at Edinburgh is really solid and I think it’s going to benefit this team and me as an individual. That was part of my decision-making process. I want to be in a team that’s winning games, but I need to be in a place where I’m going to develop into the best player I can be and to continue my development I think this is the best place for me. I still have a lot to learn as a player and I think I have to establish myself more before I think about moving.
“I did find it very tough,” he continued. “It stressed me out for a long time. I spoke to a lot of people. John Jeffrey [former Scotland flanker] is my mentor so I spoke to him, and I spoke to a lot of coaches and exiles players. What I decided from all the information I got was that when you can make the decision [to leave] at such a young age then things can backfire. It has for a lot of players who have gone away, who have gone quiet for a couple of years.
“I felt I couldn’t afford that leading into a World Cup. This World Cup is very important to me. I narrowly missed out on the last one and I was gutted. It is the pinnacle for any rugby player and Johnno [interim Scotland coach Scott Johnson] has put a massive emphasis on the World Cup; he wants us to do well, as any coach does.
“I believe that there is a good opportunity for us to do that so both from an Edinburgh point of view and a Scotland point of view, being in Edinburgh will help me a lot by being able to build and develop here.”
Denton’s decision could have a major impact on others currently debating their futures, with a host of players in talks about new deals. He has listened to a lot of advice, Jeffrey playing his part alongside the player’s parents and other coaches he respects, but, after a week in which he was rested as part of the SRU’s player management programme, the youngster admitted that the sight of internationalists returning to Murrayfield for Scotland camps unable to take part physically had also preyed on his mind.
“I’ve seen guys from the Premiership and the Top 14 coming into camp and they are exhausted,” he added. “Last week [being rested] shows that they will look at us personally here, look after us as players and not just flog us for 20 weeks in a row, and that’s important for young players in particular.
“This last week for example has been awesome for me, just getting a bit of time off, and I feel I’ve come back in revitalised and ready to train and play, and I’m really looking forward to getting out there again.”
He also has a point to prove as one of the clutch of players brought back into the side after missing the fine Heineken Cup win away to Gloucester, but he returns with his mind fully back on Edinburgh and committed to the campaign to steer the club back into contention for silverware in the RaboDirect Pro12 and Europe over the next two years.