England legend Dylan Hartley has announced his retirement from professional rugby after a troublesome knee injury, but has revealed he felt “privileged” to captain the Red Rose and his club, Northampton Saints.
England rugby hero Dylan Hartley has been forced to retire at 33-years-old, after picking up a knee injury that kept him out of action throughout 2019.
The front row ace said that he’s struggled to come to terms with the decision, but admitted that he can no longer play professionally.
Hartley said he was privileged to captain England and Northampton Saints, and has loved his entire career throughout the sport.
Hartley had become England’s most-capped hooker of all time, and the second most-capped player of all time. He was named as captain by Eddie Jones at the start of 2016.
“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,” said Hartley.
“The last few months have been difficult for me both mentally and physically as I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am no longer able to compete, but I have to thank all the staff at Saints who have all invested so much time in helping me with my rehabilitation, in particular S&C coach Eamonn Hyland.
“I have loved my journey in rugby. 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.
“I would not have been able to achieve what I have without the support of my wife Jo, my family, my friends and my teammates.
“To them all, I am incredibly grateful for their love and unwavering support.”
Hartley helped England to claim a historic Grand Slam in the 2016 Six Nations, before helping his country to a 3-0 whitewash of Australia in their own backyard.
He captained his country in their defence of the Six Nations a year later, and boasts an incredible win percentage of 85 per cent as captain.
Hartley missed out on a spot in Jones’ 2019 World Cup squad due to his ongoing knee injury.
England boss Eddie Jones insisted that Hartley’s role in the current team should never be forgotten.
“Dylan has had a significant international career playing for his country having played 97 Tests, and was a tough, enduring character for us,” he said.
“He was a foundation captain and we owe him a lot for his contribution to the making of this team.
“We will be forever indebted to him for his dedication and commitment to the team and his love of English rugby.”
Now is the right time to hang up my playing boots