Denton: “This is our best chance to beat Ireland”

David Denton has enjoyed an auspicious start to his international career. After impressing many during the World Cup training camp and subsequent warm up matches, he narrowly missed out on a ticket to New Zealand. This did not deter the 22-year-old number 8, whose determined and inspired play for Edinburgh has attracted much acclaim and he was rewarded for his hard work with a starting spot in Scotland’s Six Nations squad, and has featured heavily in all of their matches.

“For me personally it has been an incredible experience. To have gone from playing 20 minutes for Scotland in the warm up tests to being a regular on the field is incredible, and playing at Murrayfield has been something else particularly when you are playing against team like England and France. But at the end of the day, rugby is a much more enjoyable sport when you are winning.”

Playing such a key part in these games, that have been won and lost on small margins, the Edinburgh player reflects that Scotland have lived up to their unlucky losers label; “we have been unfortunate. We probably should have won two out of three games so far.” Although he would not be drawn on which ones they were, “It is just the way it goes sometimes, but now we really have to go out and make sure that we win the last two.”

“If you had seen the faces of the boys in the changing room after the game against France, I think everyone could understand that disappointment.” Saying how, whilst he has experienced some real high moments over the past couple of weeks, the lows have also been very present in himself, and in his teammates. “There were some really good reports after the France game, showing how much people understand how much it means to us, and we were gutted to lose that game, you could see it in the boys afterwards. There is the disappointment, and the anger and the desire to fix it.”

With such a mixed range of age and experience in the squad Denton says that having the senior players around is reassuring and inspiring for a younger player. “Seeing the senior players stand up, and show how much it means to them, for a young player like me it is incredible, and I hope that it comes out in our game at the weekend”

Speaking of the anger that he said was felt at the end of the France game he says, displaying an attitude towards the game that is mature for his age, “its anger directed at ourselves. We have got to take ownership of our own game. We played really good rugby, but unfortunately came out on the losing side, and that will happen sometimes, but it is about making sure that we are not that side as often as possible.”

“We have got to be able to analyse our games, and take that ownership.” He says when questioned about his part in France’s first try, “I think that although initially he looked not to be my man, I think I could have done something to stop him. It was a momentary lapse in concentration. You know, I could say it was about learning from mistakes, but I am at the top stage now, and I cannot hide behind that curtain all of my life. It’s about learning before you make the mistakes, and hopefully that is the last one I will be making.”

Alongside Denton, Ross Rennie too has impressed many with his contributions to Scotland’s games, and the pair, along with John Barclay, seems to be forming a strong bond. “We work well together, we are really strong back row and a good unit. Especially considering that we have only been together in the last games since Strokosch got injured. But I think we are doing quite well and I think that we can match Ireland up front.”

“Ireland is going to be a really physical match, especially around the contact area, and that is where I think that I can get involved, and if they get on the wrong side of the ball you have just got to make them not want to be there again. At the end of the day though, you have just got to hard nose, and get your head down.”

When Ireland’s string of matches is brought up, I asked David whether he thought that this gave Scotland an edge, “Yes. There is no question that Ireland are an outstanding team but there is not going to be many better opportunities than this. They have got four games on the trot, which is a real test in international rugby. I have felt it during the Six Nations how tired you get and we have had the weeks off. They have not had that. There is not going to be a better time for us. That being said it is still going to be a real physical battle out there, and the last twenty minutes is going to the key point for us.”

Reflecting upon his position in the back row, Denton really appears to be relishing the chances he is getting: “How many rubbish back rows are there in the world? It is a position where there tends to be a lot of depth in a lot of countries, and it is great for me to go out and play against what would be the Lions back row at the moment, and see how I compare, and see if myself, Rosco (Rennie) and John can come out on top, which I think we can.”

Such has been the nature of Denton’s play that he has attracted much attention from national and international media, and been featured in several teams of the tournament, and cited as a contender for the Lions tour: “It is not difficult to stay grounded with that attention, because I have only played four games. For me it is about consistency and being able to consistently play at the top level. I need to just out and play the same way that I have for the rest of the Six Nations and then going into the summer tour, or the autumn tests.”

“Playing against Tom Croft and Thierry Dusautoir has been great experience for me, but when you actually get out onto the pitch you sort of get the sense that they are just there to do the same thing as you, they are great players but they are not any different from you. They execute their skills well under pressure. That is what rugby is about, and hopefully we can emulate that as a back row on Saturday. I am not going to go into this game intimidated by the Irish back row, I have played against, arguably the best player in the world (Dusautoir) and come out the other side of it. I am looking forward to the confrontation.”

by Christine Lester