David Denton consigns his stop-start years to history

David Denton is tackled by Canada's Noah Barker during Scotland's 48-10 victory in Edmonton last weekend. Picture: AP.
David Denton is tackled by Canada's Noah Barker during Scotland's 48-10 victory in Edmonton last weekend. Picture: AP.
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There was a time when David
Denton appeared to have a great future behind him. When the prodigious promise that gave him a first cap at 21 looked to be in danger of evaporating. Injuries afflicted him in some seasons, selectors ignored him at other points, and he was at risk of being marginalised by the game.

Not any more. Now, after two stop-start years, he has enjoyed a long injury-free stretch of games with Worcester Warriors, secured a move to Leicester Tigers, and, most importantly, is back in the thick of things with Scotland.

Some previous summers have been spent back home recuperating from injury. This time the No 8 is not only back in the national squad for the tour of the Americas, but has also, really for the first time, taken on the status of a senior figure in what is by and large an inexperienced group.

The 28-year-old is in ebullient form on and off the pitch, and, having played in the 48-10 win over Canada on Saturday, has a fair chance of being involved in the two coming games against the USA and Argentina. The game in Edmonton was his 40th for his country and, after missing out for a time, his return feels all the sweeter.

“I can’t even describe that feeling of being injured or just being back from injured and being at home on the couch watching the Six Nations or the Autumn Tests,” Denton said. “It leaves such a sour taste in your mouth, because you want to be there more than anything.

“When you’re younger you don’t think about it, you just go from game to game. I mean, I can’t believe I have played 40 games, it doesn’t feel like it. That period from 20 to 25 I hardly blinked, but now when you get older you really do appreciate every one. The challenge for me is to keep that edge. If I do start playing more regularly I still need to keep myself in that frame of mind.

“This season was massive for me. It was pretty much two years injured. The first one was a six-month injury and what that does, it destabilises your whole body, so I kept picking up niggle after niggle after niggle. I had another year on my contract at Bath but I went to Worcester to go somewhere I could play a lot of rugby and get back into it – and I did.

“Coincidentally, I picked up an injury in my first-ever game there, but I played 25-odd games this season and that’s allowed me to get back to the situation I’m now in, to play for Scotland again, to sign a three-year deal with Leicester, to do all these things.

“I can’t wait to get started [at Leicester]. I’m not starting until the end of July, which is crazy. We have to get five weeks off. This is another opportunity for me to put in a bit of work and arrive at the club in the best shape of my life. I want to get there and make a 
statement.”

Before he gets there, of course, there is something else Denton wants to do. Something he has wanted to do for a long time: score a try for Scotland. He came close against Canada, and he has come close on quite a few occasions since his 2011 debut against Ireland, but so far he has not a single score to his name.

“It’s driving me crazy,” he admitted. “It never, ever used to piss me off, but recently I’ve been in pretty good try-scoring form for my club and I just cannot do it for Scotland.

“I thought I was going to score one [against Canada] and the bastard chopped my knees out from underneath me,” he said, laughing at the memory. “And I looked at the ref and said, ‘Come on mate, that would have been my first international try’.”

Many other established internationals have failed to score for their country, but it is Denton’s position, and his ability to make short-yardage gains in tight positions, that make his drought unusual. So unusual, in fact, that he is now Scotland’s most-capped non-front-row forward not to score a try.

“Well, let’s not get that in the piece,” he said, laughing again. “Let’s keep that out.

“I’d like to score a try, but I’m not going to go out of a system, I’m not going to go rogue to do it. What I need to do is get myself into better positions in the 22 and it’ll come. It’s annoying me, but it’s not something that I’m going to change my game because of.”

It is annoying Denton, but also providing a certain amount of amusements to his team-mates. They would no doubt be perfectly happy for him to break his duck, but, like the No 8 himself, they are not going to deviate from the game plan just to help him achieve it.

So what sort of celebration does he plan if and when he does finally score?

“I’ve been talking it through with the boys and they say I can only do one if we’re a good margin up. Me and Ryan [Wilson] get a lot of stick for this. He actually slipped under the radar for a little bit but then I pointed it out and said, ‘Hold on Wilson, you haven’t scored either!’

“The boys give us a lot of stick, especially Barcs [John Barclay], because he’s fallen over from half a metre out a few times.”

l Glasgow winger Lee Jones has left the Scotland tour squad because of the knee injury he sustained against Canada. Edinburgh winger Dougie Fife will join up with the squad today.