Saints hooker Hartley announces his retirement

Dylan Hartley during his final Saints game, at Worcester last December
Dylan Hartley during his final Saints game, at Worcester last December

Saints have announced that long-serving hooker Dylan Hartley has retired from professional rugby with immediate effect.

The 33-year-old has been sidelined since last December due to a knee injury and, despite an ongoing battle to return to full fitness, he has been unable to return to action.

It means Hartley's final match as a professional was at Sixways, where Saints defeat Worcester Warriors on December 21 last year.

Hartley was at the start of his 15th season at Franklin's Gardens, having moved to Northampton in the summer of 2005.

He has gone on to make 251 appearances for the club, spending a total of eight years as captain.

Hartley was a key figure as Saints reached the Heineken Cup final in 2011 and was part of the double-winning squad of 2013/14, when Saints claimed their first Premiership crown as well as the European Challenge Cup.

The Rotorua-born front rower is also England’s second-most capped player of all time, having turned out for the Red Rose on 97 occasions and led the side for 30 Tests as captain.

“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 team-mates. To them all, I am incredibly grateful for their love and unwavering support.”