Almost a year after a ruptured knee ligament ended Alex Dunbar’s Six Nations and wrecked his World Cup dream, the Glasgow centre is back with the national squad hoping he has used up his quota of misfortune for a while.
The 25-year-old’s recovery from the ACL injury came just too late to play any part in England 2015 and a couple of subsequent separate setbacks have prevented him from pulling on a Scotland jersey since the home loss to Italy last February. A heavy blow to his collar bone and sternum led to another spell on the sidelines before a thigh problem picked up in the European Champions Cup clash with Racing 92 ensured he would miss the start of the Six Nations.
A couple of run-outs with his club, combined with an injury doubt over Edinburgh’s Matt Scott, has seen Dunbar drafted back into Vern Cotter’s squad this week and he dearly hopes his nightmare run is at an end.
“It has been frustrating,” he said yesterday. “A few people when I was coming back said bad things come in threes. So I hope I have the three out of the way now.
“I could do no more about it. Hopefully it is out of the way now and I can concentrate on the rugby.”
The former Annan and Selkirk player now has an opportunity to win a 15th cap in Sunday’s match at home to France and he added: “If it could happen I would be delighted. To be out so long and have aspirations of coming back and then being injured again, now playing well and on a little run, I am concentrating on playing. It is no fun sitting on the sidelines or being injured. So I’ll keep trying and enjoy it.”
Dunbar has a reputation for being a physical, all-or-nothing type of player, which may partly be a reason for the string of injuries he has suffered, but he knows no other way and will continue to approach every game with the same 100 per cent commitment.
“Once I got back to training and taking contact it was never something I was bothered about,” he said. “If it happens [another injury] it happens and you just have to get on and try and do stuff.
“There was never anything at the back of my mind which was holding me back. I just chucked myself straight into it and hoped for the best.”
Dunbar admitted that there is a more relaxed vibe in the camp this week following the win in Rome, which gave Scotland their first Six Nations win in ten attempts, but there is a realisation that maintaining those good feelings is now the key priority.
“Yeah, there’s a good buzz about the squad this morning. The boys are laughing and joking. It’s all pretty positive. We’ve just got to knuckle down this week and look at France.
“I think [after getting the win in Rome] it’s just you’re a little bit more relaxed. We know as a squad week on week we’ve not been that far off getting those wins. It’s just been little mistakes and little bits of inaccuracy in our own game that have probably cost us.”
Dunbar was taken off at half-time during Glasgow’s 27-20 win over Cardiff at Scotstoun on Sunday and he feels ready to make an impact if called upon by Cotter this weekend.
“Certainly the couple of games I’ve played for Glasgow I’ve done all right,” he said. “There are a few areas I still need to keep working on week to week, but I feel good and I feel fresh, so if I get the chance I’d obviously jump at it.
“It’s good to still be thought of and feel involved. It’s just a case of letting the rugby do the talking and show what I can do, and hopefully help the team get to a victory.”
Dunbar is one of a clutch of young players who have yet to taste a Six Nations victory on their home ground and he admits that finally giving the Scottish fans something to cheer about in the competition is a driving factor.
“There’s always a pressure when you go out and play in front of your home fans,” he said. “It’s more just a frustration that we had chances [in previous games] and didn’t take them.
“That’s probably the biggest thing over the last couple of years – that we have been in the positions to go on and win, but it’s been little mistakes and just stupid errors that have cost us. It’s about cutting out the errors – just try and play our game.”