His selection for his sport's most famous touring team may have been controversial, however Allan Dell went some way towards justifying his new status as a Lion by helping Edinburgh haul down Zebre when it mattered last Friday evening and after his season’s debut the prop is eager for more action.

The timing of the return of the 25-year-old who was born under African skies but took the greatest advantage of being in the right place at the right time as one of British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland’s ‘geography six’ who were selected mainly because of proximity rather than ability, was ideal with European competition around the corner.

And having earned a penalty at the first scrum he engaged in during that summer tour of New Zealand, Dell was crucially at it again at the weekend as Edinburgh managed to dig themselves out of trouble against the fast improving Italian club.

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“That is what we dream about as props,” he said of the scrum drive that secured the penalty that let his team claim a 16-15 win to end a sequence of three successive defeats.

“We just sit and eat our food and hope we get scrums and penalties for the team. It is just our job. To be able to do the set-piece is collective. Remember that. It is an eight man scrum this year.

“It was good to get a few minutes out on the field and help grind out the win. It was a tough game.”

He was grinning broadly as he said so and for the benefit of those who still believe front-row forwards should be fed on a similar diet to the kings of the jungle, there may just have been a trace of malice in that smile.

That is certainly not something that would sit uncomfortably with Dell’s coach Richard Cockerill, central figure in Leicester Tigers’ lauded ‘ABC Club’ of the nineties, who made his own reputation beasting opposition front-rows in the company of Graham Rowntree and Darren Garforth and is naturally placing renewed importance on his specialist department.

“Cockers has us do a lot of hard pressure scrums in training,” said Dell.

“Every Tuesday in forwards sessions we have scrums on the line that simulate situations like that closing out a game or trying to win a game. It paid dividends for the hard work the boys are doing and the composure we showed.”

The closing moments should have been more relaxed in the home camp after another big scrum brought the penalty around halfway that allowed Dunc Weir to transfer play deep into Zebre 22, only for errors elsewhere, in failing to secure their own lineout ball then conceding two penalties that brought play to the other end of the pitch, to provide a reminder of how much work remains to be done at Edinburgh.

However the match ended appropriately enough, given the way it was won, with an Edinburgh scrum that was solid enough to let them kick the ball dead and secure the points.

“We could have closed out the game earlier,” Dell admitted.

“One or two mistakes led to another. They got into our half but fortunately we got a scrum over there and showed the composure and patience to get out.”

Dell also pointed out that while keen to be fully fit for the forthcoming autumn Tests he, individually, also has a long way to go to be at his most effective.

“I could lie and say I could have done 80 mins easily but after one chase I was blowing. You cannot simulate match fitness, especially a game like that when it is always moving,” he said.

“That is my first game since New Zealand. It has been frustrating because I have been out two and a half months and it is my fourth week back in training, my first week with the team. Trying to get back up to speed is frustrating because you push yourself which maybe isn’t too smart. I was maybe not happy with the performance but it is great getting in again with a great bunch of boys.

“I am just looking at it one week at a time, just seeing how the body holds out. I am just trying to train well, get the 20 mins out there and give to the team. We have London Irish next week and they are a difficult side to play against. It will be good playing them away first so we can get them at home later.”

This week brings something of a gear change as attention switches from the domesticity of the Pro14 to Europe albeit slightly ironically, it sees both Scottish clubs back facing teams from the British mainland with Glasgow heading to Exeter on their return from South Africa, while Edinburgh now head to Reading.

In that context Zebre’s expansive style of play served as decent preparation for the second tier European Challenge Cup and, as Dell pointed out, while they did not perform as well as they had in defeat to reigning Pro14 champions the Scarlets and two time former European champions Leinster on two previous weekends, the key thing was getting back to winning ways.

“The last two games we had played fantastically well,” he said.

“The boys have put their bodies on the line and have been committed to the cause. We have been unlucky and a few decisions didn’t go our way, but the guys have stuck in and have been courageous.

“Last weekend Zebre turned over Ulster and if there is a lack of respect towards Zebre you can see what can happen. In all honesty we are happy with the win but disappointed at the performance.”