Barclay announces retirement from professional rugby
Former Calcutta Cup winning Scotland captain John Barclay has today announced his retirement from the sport following a 16-year career in professional rugby.
A Guinness PRO14 winner with Scarlets in 2017, the back-row hangs up his boots having featured for both Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby during an illustrious club career that saw him make over 250 professional appearances.
Barclay called time on his international career in December 2019 – after winning 76 caps and playing at three Rugby World Cups [2007, 2011, 2019] – and now retires from the sport having left Edinburgh Rugby this past summer.
A classic openside who flourished at a young age, Barclay tasted early success when he captained Dollar Academy to victory in the Scottish Schools Cup Final in 2004.
The back-row joined Glasgow Warriors straight out of school in 2005, while he was invited to train with Scotland at just 17-years-old by then Head Coach Matt Williams, a clear indication of Barclay’s potential in the No. 7 jersey.
After a run of impressive performances for the Warriors, Barclay was named in Scotland’s squad for the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France where he made his international debut against New Zealand.
Having cemented himself in Scotland’s starting XV, Barclay found himself as one third of a lethal back-row – nicknamed ‘The Killer Bs’ – alongside Kelly Brown and Johnnie Beattie.
Barclay was named Man of the Match in Scotland’s 21-17 win over then-reigning World Champions South Africa in 2010, while international success translated back onto the club scene, with the back-row selected in the 2009-10 PRO12 Dream Team.
Barclay made his 150th appearance for the Warriors in April 2013 – and helped the club to a PRO12 Semi-Final – before announcing his decision to join Scarlets for the 2013-14 campaign.
The back-row soon became a fan favourite at Parc y Scarlets, showing commitment to the jersey and international calibre quality from the get-go.
Following a number of mid-table PRO12 finishes, Barclay inspired Scarlets to third-place in 2016-17, qualifying for the play-offs.
After winning 15-27 at Leinster in the Semi-Final stages, the Welsh club proved too much for Munster in the Final, claiming a 22-46 victory to be crowned PRO12 Champions – a defining moment in Barclay’s career.
Now once again a force on the international stage, Barclay was named Scotland captain for the 2017 Six Nations – following Greig Laidlaw’s injury – and skippered his country to impressive home wins over Ireland, Wales and Italy.
However, in 2018 – and with a new Scotland Head Coach in Gregor Townsend – Barclay’s ability truly came to the fore as the back-row skippered Scotland to a famous 25-13 win over England at BT Murrayfield – their first Calcutta Cup victory since 2008.
Barclay announced his decision to return ‘home’ for the 2018/19 season, joining Edinburgh Rugby on a two-year deal.
Although the back-row missed the near entirety of the 2018-19 campaign after suffering an Achilles injury, Barclay returned to fitness for the capital club’s run to the Heineken Champions Cup knockout stages and started in the Quarter-Final defeat to Munster at BT Murrayfield.
Barclay was named in Scotland’s squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup – his third World Cup appearance – where he started in two of Scotland’s group stage fixtures.
The back-row’s 76th and final Scotland appearance came in the 61-0 pool stage rout of Russia, with Barclay grabbing a try and captaining his country to cap off a stellar international career.
Barclay was back to his best in 2019/20, helping Edinburgh Rugby to the top of Guinness PRO14 Conference B, prior the season suspension due to COVID-19.
A true leader for both club and country, who provided the blueprint for the modern day openside, Barclay now calls time on a 16-year professional career that saw him reach the summit of the professional game.
Speaking to scottishrugby.org, John Barclay, said: “After much thought I’ve decided to call time on my career. When you know, you know and whilst COVID-19 has left a frustrating finish, the end isn’t about the fairytale. The whole story has been a fairytale.
“The opportunity to get to do the thing I loved as a job for 16 years has provided me with enough memories to last a lifetime.
“Whilst there are games that were particularly memorable, and undoubtedly I will miss the physical brutality of the game, what I’ll miss more than anything is the camaraderie and sense of fulfilment after a game, that comes from sharing a joint goal and purpose with friends. The memories off the pitch were as remarkable as the ones on it.
“To get capped was beyond my wildest dream as a child growing up. To be able to captain my country will be something I will be eternally proud of beyond anything else.
“To know I will never run out at BT Murrayfield does leave me with a tinge of sadness, but I was a supporter before I played for the team and I will be there as the team’s most fervent supporter.
“To the clubs I played for, I hope I left the clubs in better health than when I joined. And most importantly to my family, wife and three children for supporting me and allowing me to pursue my dream, I thank you. Without your support, none of this would have been possible.
“Thanks for the memories. There’s nothing else I would rather have done.”