Former England hooker Dylan Hartley retires from rugby

33-year-old forward retires due to knee injury after earning 97 England caps

Dylan Hartley has retired from professional rugby due to a knee injury. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Dylan Hartley has retired from professional rugby due to a knee injury. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The former England captain Dylan Hartley has announced his retirement from rugby after failing to recover from a knee injury.

The 33-year-old Northampton Saints hooker won 97 caps and had been in line to feature at the Rugby World Cup before the injury that he suffered 11 months ago.

“The last few months have been difficult mentally and physically as I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am no longer able to compete,” Hartley said. “I am extremely proud of my journey, both with Saints and representing England, but now is the right time to hang up my playing boots.”

Hartley, who stands behind only Jason Leonard in terms of England’s most-capped players, took over as captain at the beginning of Eddie Jones’s tenure as head coach. Under his leadership, England won two Six Nations titles, including a Grand Slam in 2016 and the summer tour to Australia that same year.

At Northampton, he captained the club for eight years, and made 251 appearances, his final professional match coming against Worcester Warriors at Sixways on 21 December last year.

“I have loved my journey in rugby,” Hartley added. “I came to England as a teenager hoping to get a few games of rugby and to see the world. I could have never predicted that one day I’d play 14 years for such a special club and go on to represent and captain England.

“Northampton Saints has been more than just a club to me. It has been a place that has provided me with direction, purpose, a sense of family, home and belonging; and ultimately a community that I was so proud to represent every time I got a chance to play for Northampton.

“My career wasn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m privileged to have experienced some amazing highs while there have also been some personal lows, all of which are powerful experiences that will stay with me forever. The final chapter of my career was supposed to go a different way, but that is the nature of professional sport.”

The announcement of his retirement comes less than 24 hours after Northampton said that they had not given up hope of Hartley playing for them again. Northampton’s director of rugby Chris Boyd said the frontrower was still targeting a return to action.

Boyd added: “He trained Monday and Tuesday this week and he is working hard. Some days there is plenty of light at the end of the tunnel and on others the curtain closes. I admire the way he has gone about his rehab and it has been tough on him physically and emotionally.

“He has stuck to it. I am not 100% sure that he will play again, but he is doing everything he can to get there. When he feels he is ready to be selected, he will tell me. I hope it will happen, but who knows?”

Boyd is tapping into the considerable experience of Hartley who has been at Northampton since 2006. “He is working with the other hookers at the club. We have six of them and they have formed a secret society. He has been doing team training and is active in meetings.

“He has been a key part of Northampton’s leadership for some time and is helping our captains this season, Alex Waller and Teimana Harrison. He is a key senior player and his contribution is valued.”

England lost to South Africa in last weekend’s World Cup final and some of the Springboks who are based in England – including Sale’s Faf de Klerk and Gloucester’s Franco Mostert – have been given time off by their clubs to take part in the trophy tour which is taking place in various parts of their country over the next week. – Guardian

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