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England international James Haskell calls time on career

The 34-year-old has struggled with injuries this season.

James Haskell played for England 77 times (Paul Harding/PA)
James Haskell played for England 77 times (Paul Harding/PA)

England flanker James Haskell is to retire at the end of the season after struggling to overcome a succession of injuries during his year at Northampton.

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Recurring ankle and toe problems have severely restricted Haskell’s game time at Franklin’s Gardens and the 34-year-old has decided to end a decorated 77-cap career that began at Wasps in 2002.

Three Six Nations titles, including a Grand Slam, and a man of the series contribution to England’s 3-0 whitewash of Australia in 2016 feature among his achievements.

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This is a day that I thought was going to be a while off, and done in different circumstances, but that is the nature of professional sport. It’s with a really heavy heart I announce my retirement at the end of the season from professional rugby. The last 25 years have been one hell of a journey that started at Maidenhead Rugby Club, went on via Papplewick School, Wellington College, Wasps, Stade Francais, Ricoh Black Rams, The Highlanders, Wasps and finally Northampton Saints. This season has not gone as I scripted it and I am only sorry that I wasn’t able to play more for the great club that is Saints. My dream was to play for England and I manage to do that. All my actions were about trying to get more of those precious caps. I am so humbled to have got my chance. Playing for your country is the best feelings you can ever have! Touring with the lions is what dreams are made of. What a tour that was! I have honestly given this my very best shot, and tried to make the most of every moment. For those of you who don’t know me personally and only know the public/social media image you will think rugby was just a job to me, and I was always focusing everything else outside of my sport. However, that was never the real story. I have spent my entire career trying to be the very best player I could be. From the moment I woke to the moment I went to bed, my day was always about trying to improve. That meant sacrificing so much, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I want to thank every coach, trainer, physio and member of staff who has helped me along the way. Thank you to my family and to my amazing wife for your unwavering support, and finally thank you to all my team mates. I have honestly laughed my head off every day for 30 years. You made this journey what it was. I am excited about what the future holds.

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“I have loved every minute of my career in rugby and feel very privileged to have played with and against some exceptional players,” the 2017 British and Irish Lions tourist said.

“I wish I’d been able to offer more to Northampton on the field this season. This next chapter was supposed to go a very different way. However, that is the nature of professional sport.

“I’ve never spent so much time injured in my entire career, but I’m doing everything I can to help the squad here until my contract ends.

“Retiring is obviously a really difficult decision for me to make – professional rugby has been the centre of my life for such a long time now and while it’s weird to imagine living without it, I look to the future with huge excitement.”

Haskell spent 14 years at Wasps over two spells that sandwiched stints in French, Japanese and New Zealand club rugby.

He joined Northampton last summer after his contract at the Ricoh Arena was not renewed in the hope that by staying in the Gallagher Premiership he might be selected for this autumn’s World Cup.

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James Haskell won three Six Nations titles (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Eddie Jones has looked elsewhere for his flankers, however, with the emergence of Tom Curry, Sam Underhill and Mark Wilson taking England in a different direction.

As a mainstay of Jones’ back row for the first two years of the Australian’s reign, Haskell played the best rugby of his Test career as a big-hitting openside, who also offered a threat at the breakdown.

“When I look back at my time coaching James, it will always bring a smile to my face,” Jones said.

I have loved every minute of my career in rugby and feel very privileged to have played with and against some exceptional players James Haskell

“It was a privilege to coach him, but also great fun. He’s what I’d describe as a ‘glue’ player – someone who always tries to bring a squad together.

“His tour to Australia in 2016 sticks in my mind. He was absolutely outstanding on that tour, amazingly physical, uncompromising and just totally dominant.

“Despite injuries preventing him from achieving his goals this season, he should be remembered for a great career and as someone who never gave less than 100 per cent for club and country.

“Not only a superb player, but also one of the game’s great characters; rugby will be poorer without the ‘old fella’.”

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