Denton to retire from rugby

Denton to retire from rugby

​David Denton, the 42-times-capped Scotland back-row forward, has today announced his retirement from rugby.

Denton, 29, has been advised to bow out on medical grounds following a concussion injury he sustained playing for his English club side, Leicester Tigers, last October.

Thus the man who arrived in Edinburgh as a “scrawny kid from South Africa” ten years ago, having sent a highlights tape to then Scottish Rugby Academy manager, Graham Shiel, via this website, and for whom the adjectives marauding and buccaneering seemed tailor-made, is now about to embark on a new chapter in his life.

He told the Scottish Rugby website: “My actual reaction at the time my neurologist told me it was no longer a good idea to play rugby… to be honest there was a bit of relief.

“This had been building up inside of me for four to five months.

“I knew there was a strong possibility that this moment (when I had to retire) was coming.”
David Denton

“By the time I got to it, I had been through all the emotional highs and lows, so I was prepared for it.

“Of course, it is devastating that my rugby career is ending. After a few years where I had a series of injuries, I had got myself back into a position where I felt, physically and mentally, that I could play the best rugby of my career.

“Since I was 14 or 15 my identity has been forged around being a sportsman, a rugby player. Now, at the age of 29, a few years before I expected, the circumstances have changed.”

Denton, who has a ten-month-old son Logan with his fiancée Shelley is planning to move back to Edinburgh and sees his future in the business world as opposed to coaching. Logan is teething at the moment so duties as a dad are uppermost in Denton’s mind.

“I’m incredibly fortunate. Scottish Rugby have helped me, particularly over the last few months. They have been awesome. I’ve spent a lot of time with (ambassador) Al Kellock, (chairman) Colin Grassie and (chief operating officer) Dominic McKay and they have helped me hugely, thinking about the transition from being a player to what happens next.

“The people they have put me in front of (from commerce and industry) has been great. I’m confident my personality and skill-set will do the rest but meeting these people has been massive.

“I want to get into the corporate world. Coaching, as a career, was never something that appealed to me. I’m really excited for the next steps in my life.

“As a rugby player, the thing I have valued most is how I’m seen and how I’m valued by an organisation. I was happy to take less money from an organisation where I was more valued.

“Again, as a player, there’s the adrenalin rush you get from running out every Friday or Saturday and even the days leading up to that. You run out to fireworks and flames. Now I have to look at the transition where things do not move as quickly as that.

“The big thing for me going forward is that I do not want to look back in sadness.”

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, responding to Denton’s retirement, said: “We’re really disappointed that someone who still had a lot to offer the game both at club level and for Scotland hasn’t been able to do that, but our first thoughts are with his health and his life beyond rugby and it seems to be the right decision to retire.

“We were hoping that taking some time out of the game would mean he would be available for selection in our world cup training squad and when that didn’t happen, we were hopeful he’d be back for next season, but again that’s not happened.

“We’re going to miss him with Scotland. He played very well last summer after being involved in the Six Nations, playing really well in that (away) game against Argentina, and getting back to the form he was in at the last world cup.

“As coaches we really enjoyed working with Dave over the years and we wish him all the best in life after rugby.”

Asked about his rugby highlight, Denton unhesitatingly picked his first start for Scotland against England at BT Murrayfield in 2012.

Even in a 6-13 defeat, Denton, 6ft 5ins and just shy of 18st, all power and bristling aggression, was named man of the match.

“It was a real watershed moment for me. It was the culmination of everything I had been striving for since I was a kid. It set me up for the rest of my career.

“My reputation, my name, was built around that game. Maybe it was my age, but I was so blindly confident in my own ability at that time. I spent a good part of my career trying to find that state of mind again,” he explained.

He bears no ill-will to the game of rugby.

“Concussion is obviously a contentious issue at the moment,” he said. “Personally, I think World Rugby is doing as much as it can to try and limit the number of incidents.

“Controlling tackles above the shoulders has been a positive step but I think making anything above the waist illegal would cause more trouble than good.

“If my son wanted to play rugby, I wouldn’t be worried in the first instance. I think it is important that all school kids, coaches and teachers are well-educated about concussion signs, risks and treatments.

“In my experience, the majority (of concussions) occurred to the tackler, so, it’s essential that good technique is practised from a young age. And if anyone, including kids, have recurring issues then it’s time to stop.”


Zimbabwe-born David Kipling Denton was eligible for Scotland through his mother, Joy, who was born in Glasgow.

He made his Scotland debut off the bench in the Rugby World Cup warm-up Test match against Ireland in August 2011 – becoming his country’s 1023rd international player – and was named RBS Man of the Match in his first experience of the 6 Nations Championship, the Calcutta Cup loss at BT Murrayfield in February 2012.

The performance underlined his candidacy for a regular starting Test place in the tournament.

Injury disrupted Denton’s attempts to recapture the form that earned him his starting spots, before he returned to his best in 2015, starting nine Test matches that year, four of which came in the Rugby World Cup 2015, where Scotland came agonisingly close to eclipsing Australia in the quarter-final at Twickenham.

Injuries, again, disrupted Denton’s 2016 campaign, making three appearances that year, including two 6 Nations tests.

Fit again Denton returned to the Scotland squad for the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations, facing France, England, Ireland and Italy.

Denton won 42 caps for Scotland, making 28 starts. His last cap was in the 44-15 win against Argentina on the 2018 summer tour in Resistencia. During his international career he enjoyed victories over Ireland, Italy, Japan, Samoa, France, England, Canada and Argentina. He played his club rugby with Edinburgh Rugby (2010-2015) making 78 appearances; Bath Rugby (2015-17); Worcester Warriors (2017-18); and Leicester Tigers (2018).

Earlier he had attended Kingswood College in South Africa before moving to Scotland to study Economics at Edinburgh University.

He represented Eastern Province in South Africa and was selected for the 2010 Scotland under-20 6 Nations squad and started in every match.

Denton earned a professional contract for Edinburgh Rugby in the early summer of 2010 before starting all of IRB Junior World Championship matches in Argentina (though shifted from his regular back-row position to lock for the final two matches).

Denton played at the outset of the 2010/11 season in Premier 1/A for Edinburgh Accies before making his Scotland A debut as a replacement in the 25-0 win over USA Eagles in November 2010.

He was then selected for the 2010/11 Scotland 7s squad for the opening Dubai and George tournaments, where he helped Scotland lift the Bowl in the 2010/11 Emirates Airline South Africa 7s – and later on the HSBC 7s World Series in Las Vegas.

Concussion and player welfare

You can read more about the importance Scottish Rugby attaches to player welfare and adhering to our concussion protocols here:… and here:…concussion

Spread the word

Newsletter Sign-up

Sign-up for our newsletter today to receive the latest updates, content and releases from Scottish Rugby.


Principal Partners