Northampton Saints and England player Dylan Hartley has announced that he will be retiring from professional rugby with immediate effect.
The 33-year-old hooker has been unable to recover from a knee injury that has kept him out of action throughout 2019.
Hartley is the Saint’s longest serving player, retiring at the start of his fifteenth season after having made more than 250 appearances for the club.
“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."
The Rotorua-born player first joined the Saints at the Northampton Franklin’s Garden stadium back in 2005.
Named captain for the first time in 2009 at just 23-years-old he became the youngest premiership skipper and ended up captaining the team for eight years. Since then, he has become England’s second-most capped player of all time.
“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 fourteen years for such a special club and go on to represent and captain England."
The player admits that it’s been hard for him to come to terms with his retirement, but agrees that it’s the right time to hang up his boots.
“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."
Hartley has been described as a 'club legend' by the Saints who have said that his achievements are ‘almost unparalleled by his peers’.
“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.”
Hartley will now act as an ambassador for the club. The new role will help the Saint's to maximize their impact across Northamptonshire and beyond.