Dickson set to skipper with a smile at Saints this season
Having seen the flak Chris Robshaw has taken for England in recent weeks, you could understand if Lee Dickson was approaching the new season with an element of trepidation.
The No.9 has been appointed Saints captain for the new campaign, taking over from Dylan Hartley, who had held the role for six years.
Dickson has skippered Saints before, with his first time coming in a game against Wasps in 2012.
But this will be his first full season as the on-field figurehead, the man who must make snap decisions when it really matters.
Robshaw was seen to have got it wrong when he went for the corner rather than the posts against Wales, with that choice costing England their World Cup place.
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He took the criticism on the chin, but couldn’t hide his hurt in the post-match press conference.
And Dickson knows that with great power comes great responsibility.
But the smiley scrum-half has pledged to take it all in his stride, knowing there are other senior players at Saints who will back him all the way.
“I classed myself in that leadership group when Dylan was captain, but as the captain you’re at the top so you’re under a lot of pressure and scrutiny when things go wrong,” Dickson admitted.
“People ask why you didn’t make certain decisions so it’s always there, but I’m happy with it all, I’ll smile and that’s how I play the game.
“It’s not a pressure, it’s an exciting thing.
“The past six years we’ve been in that top four and I’m looking forward to hopefully lifting a couple of trophies in the next couple of years and making sure we stay at the top.”
Though he still looks as fresh-faced as the day he arrived at Saints from Newcastle Falcons in 2008, Dickson is now one of the most senior members of the squad.
That is amplified by the loss of the man known as ‘The Squadfather’, Phil Dowson, who has left to join Worcester Warriors.
And the grinning Dickson said: “I’ve been here seven years now - seven years!
“There are a lot of young lads here now and when it was oldest to the top, I found myself as one of the oldest and was like, ‘what’s going on here?’.
“But there’s a lot of young talent and the signings we’ve brought in are really good so it’s good to see.”
After Hartley opted to relinquish the captaincy, Dickson was delighted to take it on, saying it was ‘lovely’ to be asked by director of rugby Jim Mallinder.
And it was a timely boost for the 30-year-old, who had seen his World Cup aspirations dashed prematurely as he was cut from the squad in early August.
“I was bitterly disappointed and it’s like someone takes your dream away from you,” Dickson said.
“But you’ve got to take the positive out of it, you’ve got to train hard, you can’t wallow in it.”
Dickson didn’t, displaying his trademark high-tempo game in pre-season wins at Saracens and Wasps.
And now he is ready for the hurdles that the Aviva Premiership, which starts with a game at Worcester on Friday night, will present.
“The start of the season is going to be very interesting,” Dickson said.
“There’s an unlucky few who didn’t make the World Cup squad so we’ve got a lot of motivated players who are looking forward to playing these games.
“Then, when the World Cup boys come back, it’s going to be such a vicious league.
“There’s no easy out any more, there’s no easy places to go to.
“Even at the Gardens we’ve got to make sure we’re at 100 per cent because we’ve been turned over a few times last season when we probably shouldn’t have been.
“I can’t wait to get out there now.
“The last time we played a competitive game was in the semi-final against Saracens and that is a long, old time.
“We’re looking forward to lacing up our boots and getting out there.”