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Rehab plus rest plus physio equals return

PEOPLE say that if you hurt yourself it is important you "get back on the horse" as quickly as possible.

Alex Dunbar tore a muscle in his hip during the PRO12 final last season. Picture: SNS/SRU
Alex Dunbar tore a muscle in his hip during the PRO12 final last season. Picture: SNS/SRU

Which, in rugby terms — without the need for equine assistance — is exactly what Alex Dunbar is hoping to do. He limped out of the final game of last season but is ready to be picked for the first game of this campaign, looking for revenge against the same opposition, Leinster.

His return to action matters not just to Glasgow Warriors, his club, but to Scotland. With Matt Scott already out of action until after the November Tests, the international management need Dunbar, the other half of their first-choice centre combination, not just back in action but back at the top of his game.

So there will be some celebrating back at national headquarters after he came through a testing 80 minutes last weekend in a friendly against London Scottish and they will be looking for him to make a major impact on his competitive return when the Irish, who beat Glasgow in last season's play-off final, turn up at Scotstoun.

For Dunbar, one key aim is simply to last the match, after tearing a muscle in his hip 55 minutes into the PRO12 final; ending his ambition to make a strong first impression on Vern Cotter in his first outing as Scotland head coach.

"It was a tough summer," he admitted. "I was looking forward to showing what I could do on the summer tour, but injury ruled me out of that. I was happy to get back at the weekend, back playing again and back with all the boys.

"The target was either last week or this week so I put a lot of effort into the summer trying to stay as fit as possible, doing as much work as I could to get back as soon as possible. It was a lot of rehab, a lot of rest and a lot of physio.

"I had a few niggles towards the end of last season, as anyone does, so it was also a chance to let a few things settle down and so the last few weeks I have been able to do a lot more, work on some skills and handling. It was a great opportunity to get back into the gym and work on upper body strength and make progress in areas I felt I could make improvements."

The effort he put in has not gone unnoticed: "It is fantastic he is back ahead of schedule," was the verdict from Shade Munro, an assistant coach. "He had played a lot of rugby [before the injury] so the way he has recovered will have helped — he will have had a rest on the back of it.

"He was a bit rusty early on last weekend, as I think he would admit himself, but as the game went on he got better and better and in the end was one of the stand-out players on the pitch."

He is right. Dunbar did feel his confidence and timing coming back, but knows he is still some way short of the level that made him an automatic choice for Scotland. "I felt the game went all right, I had some good touches, but it will take a couple of games to get match sharpness b ack," he said.

Apart from national matters, he knows he needs to get back to last season's level just to keep his Glasgow place. Mark Bennett, his centre partner, was probably the pick of the backs last weekend and though Peter Horne missed the game, he is also anxious to get his place back with James Downey, the summer signing, adding to the competition.

On top of that, Finn Russell can play both fly half and centre as can Connor Braid, the Canadian signing, while Richie Venon, adds to the competition. Sean Lamont and Stuart Hogg, currently catching up on pre-season work after the Commonwealth Games, can both play centre as well.

"It is good," Dunbar maintains. "All the boys are pushing each other hard, you see how competitive it is with everybody swapping in and out and putting each other under pressure.

"It is good from a squad point of view with everyone mucking in and pushing each other hard. It can only make the team better if we are all on top of our game."

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