Dell Raring to Return to Previous Top Form

Edinburgh Rugby’s Allan Dell was overcome with injury for the majority of last season, however, the Scotland international – who originally hails from South Africa – is back fit and aiming to earn his place back in Richard Cockerill’s squad.

Dell back in training for Edinburgh Rugby (Photo: The Times)

Injury setbacks

Having been called in to Warren Gatland’s Lions squad touring New Zealand last summer, prop Dell returned to Scotland with a niggling injury: “I had two bulging discs in my back.”

Originally, the short-term solution was to give Dell an injection, however this did not have the full desired effect. The situation was also worsened when, during a game against London Irish, he tore his left groin and was informed that reconstructive surgery was required.

Instead of continuing some of the best playing form he had been having for a number of seasons – as it’s not for nothing you get called up to the Lions – Dell found himself undergoing two operations within a matter of days.

One of these was a microdiscectomy which is minimally invasive surgery in which sections of the herniated disc are removed in order to relieve the pressure it places on the spine.

Dell spoke about the unlucky nature of how long the injury kept him out, saying: “Most athletes and rugby players, if you go for a scan you will have bulges in your back, but I was just unfortunate that mine was hitting the nerve going down to the foot so I had no power down my hamstring.

“There was pain always shooting and just bending over to try and put my sock on brought a sharp pain.”

Fight back from injury

That bout of injury caused the prop to come to some startling conclusions: “I am 26, which is still young, but my body probably feels a lot older than a 40s body.”

He conceded that his struggles to push through his comeback have also taught him some vital lessons, when it comes to adhering to the needs of his body: “I’m starting to feel like a young buck again. Managing the body is extremely important…I took that for granted.”

Looking ahead, Dell is maintaining a positive outlook on the game: “Nobody is ever 100% but I am feeling good. I feel better than I have in a long time. I am enjoying that.

“I am getting my fitness up, getting the contact side of the game up, getting those aspects right and pain free, which is a relief. Playing without that discomfort and pain. That is down to the management.”

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom, however, as Dell did concede he has been indulging in some guilty pleasures whilst recuperating: “Definitely shortbread. And I like my breakfast, mate – tattie scones. Biltong? I’ve got away from that.

“The full breakfast: black pudding, haggis and a scone afterwards. But that has gone now. I’m taking my diet seriously again.”

Upcoming opportunities

Dell has expressed his desire to return to the form he had before the injuries overtook him, saying: “You appreciate it when you start getting your body right again. You can actually enjoy your rugby again.”

His return comes at a somewhat trying time in the front row, as fellow prop Pierre Schoeman is serving a four-week ban, after being shown a red card in Edinburgh’s game against Leinster.

Dell addressed this: “It is unfortunate for us running up to the European games, but it is good that Cockers has been managing us well and he has got his plan to work with us and what games he is going to play us in and we have to make sure we take our chances. Me and Rory [Sutherland] and Darryl [Marfo] have to put our hands up.”

His mentality coming back in to the team, is a strong one: “You know what you used to do and what you expect and you have to build back up to that.”

Challenge of the Cheetahs

Edinburgh’s next challenge will be coming up against the Cheetahs this Friday night, at BT Murrayfield. The players on the South African side are not an unknown commodity to Dell: “I played against a lot of the guys at age-grade level and growing up, so I know quite a bit about them.”

Thus, he knows that Edinburgh must not take the challenge lightly, as he said: “They are good players, they have showed their mettle.”

He further explained: “There’s a lot of exciting players over there and they are dangerous, every game they play in is exciting. If you switch off for one second they can score so you have to stay awake and really concentrate.”

Ultimately, Edinburgh will be looking to secure another win at home, after their frustrating close call with Benetton last week in which they came out on top 31-30.

Dell believes that the squad need to put out an assured performance in their clash with the South African side, as he explained: “They are physical and they can bash it up, but they go width to width. We need to make a statement after the Treviso performance. The way that we won it is disappointing, but it’s good that we’ve got an opportunity to put that right.”

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