Former England captain Dylan Hartley has announced his retirement from rugby with immediate effect.
The Northampton hooker, 33, has been unable to recover from a knee injury that has kept him out of action since December 2018.
Hartley was appointed Red Rose skipper when Eddie Jones took over in the 2015-16 season and guided the team to two Six Nations titles – including a Grand Slam.
Ex-England captain Dylan Hartley has announced his retirement with immediate effect
He has failed to overcome a knee injury hat has kept him out of action since December 2018
‘Fat lady singing means it’s time to take off the playing boots and limp off into the real world,’ he wrote on Instagram accompanied with a picture of him playing for England and Northampton.
‘It’s been a rollercoaster of a career, none of which I’d change as all the experiences have led to the man I am today.
‘Thank you to my wife @jojo_hartley_, family, friends, team-mates, coaches for their support – all have invested time, energy and belief in me. @officialnorthamptonsaints have been the constant throughout my career, I can’t thank them enough for their unwavering support.
‘Supporters, fans, nauses, general rugby people, trolls. You’ve been great. I hope I made it interesting for you!
‘@englandrugby – thank you for giving a kid from Rotorua an opportunity to fulfil his dream. Never thought it would happen, so to play in the shirt for 1 game let alone 97 was an honour.
‘I’m truly excited (and nervous!) about what the future holds and can’t wait to see where I go next.
The 33-year-old captained England to a memorable Six Nations Grand Slam triumph in 2016
Hartley made 251 appearances for Northampton, who he captained to the Premiership title in 2014, but has agreed to terminate his contract after 15 seasons at the club.
‘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 Rotorua-born 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.
Pictured ahead of the start of this season, Hartley made 251 appearances for Northampton
The hooker captained Northampton to the Premiership title during the 2013-14 campaign
‘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 won 97 caps and, before his injury, was in line to lead England at this year’s World Cup in Japan.
The captaincy was subsequently handed over to Owen Farrell, who led the team to last Sunday’s final against South Africa.
England head coach Eddie Jones was robbed of Hartley’s services at the Rugby World Cup
Hartley retires as England’s second most-capped player, behind Jason Leonard, and Jones thanked him for his service over the last decade.
‘Dylan has had a significant international career playing for his country having played 97 Tests, and was a tough, enduring character for us,’ said Jones.
‘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.’