Scotland’s Alex Dunbar refuses to give up dream

Alex Dunbar at Edinburgh Castle yesterday when it was announced that BT Murrayfield will host this season's Pro12 final. Picture SNS Group/SRU
Alex Dunbar at Edinburgh Castle yesterday when it was announced that BT Murrayfield will host this season's Pro12 final. Picture SNS Group/SRU
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INJURED Scotland centre Alex Dunbar still hopes to be available for the Rugby World Cup squad if needed at a later date but is not yet ready for a return to the pitch.

The Glasgow Warrior, who ruptured knee ligaments in the build-up to this year’s Calcutta Cup match, ran out of time in his race to be fit for the 31-man squad, which was named by Scotland coach Vern Cotter a week ago. He had even spent three weeks at a top rehabilitation centre in the United States in a bid to speed up his recovery but it was not to be.

The 25-year-old former Annan and Selkirk player is now back with his club focusing on playing again in the Guinness Pro12 but he will not be involved when Connacht visit Scotstoun on Friday night.

He confirmed: “Sadly not. I came back doing a bit of running but I had a bit of swelling come back into it so I’ve had to ease back slightly which is frustrating. But it’s still going well. We’re just going to have to wait and see.”

Asked if he still hoped he could play a part in the World Cup if needed due to injuries, he replied: “Yes but I’m just back at Glasgow now and focusing on getting back fit and playing hopefully and enjoying it.”

Dunbar is clearly dismayed to have missed out on selection for the global extravaganza, which gets under way in England a week on Friday. But he is taking a philosophical approach to the situation.

“It was a little bit disappointing but obviously I knew it was going to be a push,” he said. “It was just frustrating that I came so close and it just wasn’t quite right. But I’d rather take an extra couple of weeks than go out there undercooked and do it again. It’s getting there but I need to get the swelling in the joint down.”

Dunbar was speaking at Edinburgh Castle yesterday following the announcement that the Guinness Pro12 final will be held at BT Murrayfield this season. The knee injury meant the centre was unable to feature in Glasgow’s surge to the title in Belfast and he said that the prospect of a home final would provide an extra motivation this term.

He said: “It will be good for Scottish rugby. You saw all the fans who went across to Ulster to the final last year, so hopefully we can get a Scottish side in the final, a big crowd and it’s a great day.”

The selection of Scotland’s national rugby stadium for the showpiece is an ambitious one by the Guinness Pro12 but it is confident that it can pack in a big crowd.

Tournament director David Jordan pointed to the Heineken Cup quarter-final of 2012 when Edinburgh defeated Toulouse in front of almost 40,000 and said he felt that could be a feasible target.

The SRU’s director of commercial operations, communications and public affairs Dominic McKay viewed that at the “ambitious” end of the spectrum but insisted that BT Murrayfield was the right choice.

He said: “Before we finalised the bid we looked at a bunch of venues, both in the west and also here in Edinburgh. We’ve had such a warmth towards rugby in the last couple years, the way we’ve marketed Six Nations and autumn Tests and got really good crowds. We’ve just had 45,000 for a World Cup send-off match, which was pretty impressive. We’re in good shape.

“It will come down to the teams who are in the final but I guess that’s why we are seeing it as a celebration of the whole Guinness Pro12 season. All 12 clubs in the league will be incentivised to sell to their local market.

“Our challenge is market this to the whole of Scotland and more broadly as a league. It will be a challenge, but it is one we are up for. What a great feeling and shot in the arm for Glasgow and Edinburgh to know that if they play well this season they could get an opportunity at that home final.”

Ibrox had been in place to host the 2014 final had Glasgow been top seeds but, in the end, they faced Leinster and had to travel to Dublin.

Last season’s first “destination final” was at Ulster’s 18,000-capacity Kingspan Stadium and then the Guinness Pro12 said they wanted a full stadium rather than a big stadium. Asked what had changed this season, tournament director Jordan, the former Glasgow chief executive, said: “What’s changed this year was the success of last year and the demand for tickets. We could have sold the Kingspan twice over. The opportunity to come to Murrayfield was one we were delighted to take.

“I think it’s really good to be at a national stadium. It’s where we want to be in terms of our finals for the future. We want to be at iconic venues and it’s not just about the two teams involved, it’s about creating a rugby festival, a rugby experience.”

BT Murrayfield will host the 2017 European Champions Cup final, but McKay revealed that “a few options” including Hibernian FC’s Easter Road Stadium are being looked at for the second-tier Challenge Cup final.

But he said the SRU was always keen to utilise the asset of the national stadium and added: “We are keen to exploit BT Murrayfield as much as we can. We have a venue that is a decent size and whether it be this Guinness Pro12 final, the European Cup final in 2017, the Foo Fighters concert this week, or we also had Celtic there a couple of times last year, we are keen to be open for business and be seen to be open for business.”