IN MARCH OF this year, Tom Denton lined out with Leeds Carnegie for the final time in an English Championship game against Rotherham Titans.
On Saturday, the 24-year-old partnered Leo Cullen in the second-row as the reigning Heineken Cup champions beat Edinburgh, a team that reached the European semis last season, 22-16.
In the space of six months, Denton’s rugby priorities have changed and now he talks of league wins and replacing Brad Thorn in the Leinster team.
Speaking to TheScore.ie, away from the punishing Dublin rain, Denton reflects on his first full game in Leinster blue.
“We were pleased with the result but there is a lot to work on,” he said. “It is about integrating new players, like myself, into the squad and building from there.”
Denton was born and raised in York but is qualified to play for the Irish senior team if performances elevate him to that position. He is looking forward to checking out some of the competition, in the form of Mike McCarthy and Michael Swift in Galway on Friday.
“I think everyone raises their game for a derby. Coming from England there were a few hard games up in Yorkshire – the likes of Rotherham and Leeds were big.
“There is a different atmosphere to them. I’ve heard that it is a hard place to go. There was a narrow victory up there last season.”
Denton says the prospect of stepping into the Leinster second-row is more of a challenge for him rather than a daunting prospect. He commented:
Very high standards have been set over recent years. I’ve got to work on with I can with certain coaches and experienced players around, use them to develop my game and make the next step up.
“I’m not sure if I’ve come here to replace (Brad) but I’ve got to focus on my strengths and identify areas to work on.”
Denton is adjusting to life at Leinster and is grateful to Rhys Ruddock, his housemate this season, for helping him settle in Dublin.
He identifies Leinster old boy Nathan White and newly-signed Connacht out-half Dan Parks as danger players for Friday’s Pro12 clash at the Sportsground but likes what he sees from his new team.
“I think the whole culture is great,” said Denton. “Everyone works hard and they have bought into the idea that the hard work will get you rewards.”