Edinburgh centre Chris Dean has revealed how coach Richard Cockerill helped his players to absorb last weekend’s bitterly disappointing European loss to Munster and focus on the crunch Pro14 battle ahead at Scarlets this Saturday.
“We had our Munster review upstairs then Cockers said ‘scratch this, we’re going downstairs for a change of scenery for our Scarlets meeting’,” explained Dean, who scored Edinburgh’s try in that 17-13 Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final thriller.
He continued: “In order to make the play-offs we need three wins so it’s a huge few weeks for us as a team.
“We need to approach it with fresh minds, get the bodies freshened up but also take the learnings from last weekend into another big game this weekend. They [Scarlets] will be raring to go as well with their Welsh internationalists back and looking to make the play-offs.”
Edinburgh currently lie fourth in Conference B, three points behind Benetton and two ahead of Saturday’s opponents, so the clash at the Parc y Scarlets is shaping up to be a defining one in the push for the Guinness Pro14 play-offs.
Dean has made a habit of scoring tries in big games, including a late winner in an 1872 Cup match against Glasgow, and he wants more of that.
“The bigger games are hugely exciting to play in,” said the 25-year-old from North Berwick. “That home support [against Munster] was the biggest I’ve played in as an Edinburgh player and it was really exciting personally, and as a team we really enjoyed it but ultimately we’d have loved to have got the win in front of that support.
“That’s our focus for the next few weeks, just to get the wins. Every match is big now – there’s a lot riding on them.”
Even with Scotland stars Matt Scott and Mark Bennett returning to fitness, Dean has formed a great partnership with James Johnstone in the Edinburgh midfield this season, and Cockerill has clearly been impressed.
For Dean it has been a productive season, with a call-up to the Scotland Six Nations squad an added bonus.
“It was a bit of a shock but it was nice to receive a call from [Scotland coach] Gregor [Townsend] and be added to the squad, and it was nice being a part of a new group and coaching set-up,” he said.
“I felt like I got a bit out of it but ultimately I’d love to push for gaining a first cap, but you’ve got to do that by playing well for your club and just hope Gregor sees that and has confidence in you to go and play if you get the opportunity.”
Dean admitted that when his try evened things up in the first half against Munster, he thought the momentum was heading towards a successful outcome for the home team.
“It was in my head that it was a turning point for us. We had a lot of pressure on them early in the game and finally in that phase we found a way to get over the line, and I thought it felt like it was a turning point to keep putting the pressure on,” he said.
“We did for the most part, apart from the few phases that led up to their try and our small turn-off in concentration. It was pretty frustrating, but an enjoyable experience.” And it’s certainly something he’d like a lot more of.
“A lot of us in our squad haven’t played a lot of Champions Cup so being in games of that seriousness, especially knock-out rugby for the first time for most of us, was a great experience,” added Dean.
“In those games it comes down to small margins and it’s probably small margins that’s cost us the game.
“We were in control for the most part so for us it’s about learning that you need to have 100 per cent concentration so that when we’re in that position again we can learn from it and go one better.”