KARL Dickson believes being a late starter in rugby will give him the longevity to continue his career beyond his peers who have been playing longer.

The Harlequins scrum half made his 50 th appearance for the club in Saturday's narrow defeat at Gloucester, and immediately set his sights on reaching 100.

It would seem remarkable to observers who saw Dickson called up as a replacement to the England squad earlier this month that he did not play his first adult game until the age of 22.

While his brother Lee, also a scrum half, started his career at Newcastle Falcons, who Quins play at Kingston Park tonight, Karl's career took a different path.

He said: “We grew up all over the place as our dad was in the forces, and ended up going to college in Newcastle, but while Lee broke through with the Falcons, I went to University in Coventry and was more interested in playing football.

“It was only when I left uni that I came back to rugby and signed for Bedford Blues, but my aspirations were just to get into their first team, so it was a lucky break when Dean Richards signed me for Quins.

“I'm now 29, but I still feel I have a good few years left in me as I haven't had my body being bruised black and blue since the age of 17 or 18 like most other players. I was relaxing while they were getting battered all over the place.”

Dickson admits it was a bitter-sweet moment when he got called up to the England elite squad in place of his injured brother earlier this month, only to be sent home two days later. But the Saxons regular admits it has given him a taste for more.

He said: “It was an odd few days. I am really close to my brother, so I was gutted for him while excited for myself. Thankfully it was soon clear that Lee was okay, but that was the end of my involvement, although Stuart Lancaster let me stay and train for a few days.

“Hopefully that will help me when the Saxons and elite squad do a joint tour to South Africa in the summer. Stu just told me to keep fit and my chance will come again.”

Quins will look to bounce back from their Gloucester defeat when they take on Newcastle tonight, but Dickson insists the performances have certainly not been missing.

He added: “We actually played some outstanding rugby at Gloucester, but it's a hard place to go and win at. I would say we we're back to our best, but while we didn't perform against Worcester and won, we were much better on Saturday but just came up short.”