Alex Dunbar announces retirement from rugby

Former centre was once one of the first names on the Scotland team-sheet but his career stalled just as he should have been reaching the peak of his powers

Alex Dunbar has announced his retirement. Image: © Craig Watson -
Alex Dunbar has announced his retirement. Image: © Craig Watson -

FORMER Scotland and Glasgow Warriors centre Alex Dunbar has confirmed his retirement from professional rugby at the age of 31.

Once regarded as one of the hottest rugby properties in the country, a combination of injury and a struggle to fit into Dave Rennie‘s game-plan at Glasgow Warriors saw his career begin to stall about four years ago, at the point when you would have hoped he would be hitting the peak of his powers.

Dunbar managed 12 appearances (10 starts and two off the bench) during the 2017-18 season and eight appearances (four starts and four off the bench) during 2018-19, before heading off to Newcastle Falcons on loan in January 2019 in an effort to rejuvenate his game ahead of his Glasgow Warriors contract running out that summer.

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He managed only two Gallagher Premiership appearances as the Kingston Park club stumbled out of the top flight at the end of the 2018-19 season, then picked up a year-long contract with French Top 14 side Brive for the 2019-20 season, but was released when the campaign was abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dunbar played 31 games for Scotland between his debut in February 2014 and his last appearances in November 2018, displaying a combination of pace, power and an eye for a deadly running line which ensured he was one of the first names on the team-sheet for most of that period.

Now, along with Matt Scott, Mark Bennett and Huw Jones, he is in good company as a supremely talented Scottish centre who has not been able to live up to the promise exhibited in his early 20s.

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It was revealed in January that Dunbar, whilst still based in France, was studying for an HND in agriculture via distance learning from Scotland’s Rural College – more than a decade after completing an HNC in agriculture immediately after leaving school – and he announced on Instagram this [Monday] evening that he is now back working on his family’s farm in Johnstonebridge, near Lockerbie.

“First week back on the farm complete,” he wrote. “Feel extremely grateful to have had such an amazing journey with my rugby career.

“As a teenager growing up on the farm and playing rugby for fun I’d never have imagined what it would lead to.

“I’ve been honoured to represent my country, play with and learn from legends of the game, travel to places I’d never of had the opportunity to before and most importantly make friendships that will last a life time.

“Unfortunately, my career has had to come to an end sooner than hoped due to injury but I’m happy and ready to move onto the next chapter of life with my family.

“Time to hang up the boots and pull on the wellies!

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About David Barnes 4012 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Like many others was a huge fan of AD and sorry to see him retire as he was a great Warrior and up there with the best.
    Rumoured he fell out with DR by forcibly airing his views and think that he and Huw Jones, his alleged weakness in tackling aside were shabbily treated by management. Lessons to be learned for the future

  2. Top player and I’ll always remember his crazy lineout try against Ireland but there was always an injury waiting for him. Huw Jones has shown glimpses this year and he’ll be back. Bennett could definitely have flown higher, he had so much talent. Other notables who had to retire due to injury include Tom Philip who could have gone places and Joe Ansbro who had talent.

  3. Just watched the short highlight video of Scotland’s one point win over Italy in 2014. Two outstanding tries from Dunbar and also Weir’s imperious drop goal to win the match at the very end. Best wishes to Alex in this fresh chapter of life…..and thanks for the many great memories you gave us at Scotstoun.

  4. endorse the last two comments to some extent – certainly as far as the importance of Alex Dunbar to a great Glasgow side. I felt after his last long injury at Glasgow he struggled a bit for the pace he used to have – I always hoped he would recover it once properly match fit but by that time he seemed to be out of the picture as far as DR was concerned and as pointed out, he was not alone. Pro-sport seems great when things are going well . .

  5. Let’s hope Huw Jones plays well on the Scotland summer tour and forces Townsend to keep picking him in the Autumn.

  6. As this article says he never fully fulfill d hs potential but he had his moments for Scotland that “lneout” try against Wales being one. Scotland should have made more of Bennett’s talYent and should be making more of Huw Jones.
    Jones is one of the best attacking centres around and one of the best I have ever seen play for Scotland. Surely there is some way he can be included in the team with Harris ? Would inside centre be a possibility ?

    • Let’s hope Huw Jones plays well on the Scotland summer tour and forces Townsend to keep picking him in the Autumn.

      • Presumably Mike Blair will be picking the team, so Jones may have more of a chance.

  7. Tremendous player, a real barnstormer of a centre in the old fashioned mould – and I would like to have seen more of him in Scotland colours, injuries permitting. Will never forget that lineout take against Ireland four years ago. What a belter!

  8. I thought he was a great player , lost to the game through injury and yet more strange decisions from Glasgow. Wish him well in the future.

  9. Best wishes for the future.

    Shows the perils of pro sport. It’s a short career. Well done Alex and I hope you have a happy “retirement”

  10. I was a big fan of Dunbar, and his style of play. A career cut short but it looks like he’s being smart about it and continuing his life back home. I wish him well.

  11. Shame – Dunbar/Bennett were the dream team centre pairing to beat during the Pro12 season Glasgow won….. Fantastic to watch, great for Glasgow and Scotland and will be missed. Can’t help feeling like the other posts here that the “system” is not making the most of the exceptional talent that we have, tending to focus on what perceptions they have as weaknesses and putting them down as opposed to supporting them expand their game and realise their true potential???! Their is now a trail of what-ifs, especially at centre.

  12. IMO, the jury was out on DR from the start.
    He was devisive, and I think he’s accountable for the demise of Alex Dunbar, Huw Jones and Matt Smith, to name 3.
    Bad appointment from Glasgow. The Dunbar Jones Centre pairing could have been exceptional if it had been allowed to happen. But DR couldn’t see it.
    Really glad that DR has gone.
    Alex Dunbar was a brilliant centre. Fast, fearless,great hands, great defender, tackled and jackalled like a top rate back row.
    Had the privilege to see him play on my occasions. Sad loss to our sport, but good luck to Jim and his family for the future, he deserves every success and happiness.

  13. Sad to see but was looking inevitable, given his lack of a contract. Another player not given a fair shot by Rennie and who I hoped we would have seen a lot more of. Good luck to him for the future


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