ALLAN Dell’s back was aching. His groin was hurting too. And that was just getting out of bed, or bending over to put his socks on. So how the hell was he supposed to subject his body to scrummaging again? he 26-year-old prop forward, speaking at Scotland’s training base in Oriam, freely admits that he almost gave up on rugby altogether during his injury-enforced year off from the sport. But thankfully his family never gave up on him. A couple of long days ‘covered in cow excrement’ on the family farm was enough to convince him that normal life is overrated.

Happily returned to health and happiness under Richard Cockerill at Edinburgh, and eulogising about working with Danny Wilson, his new forwards coach with Scotland, Dell will put his body on the line for his country again this Saturday as they kick off their autumn internationals at the Principality Stadium against Wales.

“It was tough,” said Dell. “It was a dark time, it was pretty s***. It was terrible. Fortunately, the people around me got me through it.

“Frustration is definitely one of the words you’d use,” he added. “I don’t want to keep talking about it but I thought about quitting rugby at one stage, especially with the back and groin at the same time. I was at a stage where I was thinking ‘am I going to carry on with rugby?’ Just with the way the body was feeling and the things I couldn’t do that I’d taken for granted. Ggetting out of bed, putting your socks on. When you have pain like that you start thinking about your future, it’s not something you want to live with.

“What pulled me out of the fug? Family support and just remembering why you play the game … and also that I’d have to go back and work on the farm, get up at 5am and home at 8pm covered in dust and cow excrement, you don’t really want that eh?! I was 25, 26 and you think I could have another ten years of a career and one day I might of thought ‘what if?’ and would miss something you’ve known your whole life. You’re not going to give that up easily. You have a soft moment when your brain starts playing tricks on you but you get over it. I got the help I needed.”

Dell, you might remember, was regarded highly enough to receive a cameo appearance on the 2017 British and Irish Lions Tour but it was on the return journey from the other side of the world that things started to go awry. Before long, having at first attempted to manage the twin injuries, he was undergoing to operations in the space of a week. “I would have tried to push on like a wounded wildebeest but the groin tear allowed us to fix the back too,” he says.

While the injury lay-off has made him appreciate the sport more, it has also changed the way he looks at the game. “When you play on the weekend or wear the jersey, these are the things you’ll remember when you retire, especially representing your country against big nations – playing autumn tests, 6 nations all those things.” he said. “I have definitely changed the way I play a lot. I’m not as free around the park. I have tried to adapt the game and I’m maybe not as explosive as I used to be. Scotland v Wales in November feels a bit odd but you need to start the game firing shots at the opposition.”

It is a heart-warming story about sport’s capacity to conquer adversity with which to pass onto the younger generation – if, that is, they were listening.”I think most of them are too busy with Fortnite these days!” he says, only half-joking.