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'Absolute warrior': English lock who thrived in New Zealand quits

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

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Harlequins lock Matt Symons will retire from rugby at the end of the current season, the 32-year-old calling time on an eleven-year playing career that began in Esher and saw him travel to New Zealand to captain the Super Rugby Chiefs before returning to England to play in the Premiership for London Irish, Wasps and Quins. A Harlequins statement read: “A totemic figure within the Quins side that claimed the 2020/21 Premiership title in dramatic fashion, Symons will close his career having played over 80 times over the last four years.

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“Symons’ route to professional rugby was a rarely-travelled one. First taking up the sport within the Saracens youth system from the age of five, he left the North London side to pursue a career in rowing, going on to take up a spot in the Britain rowing programme. 

“A forearm injury prematurely ended Symons’ rowing ambitions, seeing the 6ft 7in, 120kg lock return to rugby in 2011 to play professionally for Esher. Impressing during his time in the Championship, Symons opted to move to New Zealand, settling in Christchurch to play for Canterbury in the ITM Cup as a regular starter. 

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“The Harlow-born lock subsequently earned a full-time contract with two-time Super Rugby champions the Chiefs, whom he would go on to captain before his eventual return to England in 2015. After he retires this summer, Symons will transition into a new role in commercial real estate with Jones Lang LaSalle in central London.”

Symons said: “There comes a natural time for every rugby player to hang up their boots and I feel fortunate to be able to make that decision on my own terms. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have been given through professional rugby. It has given me the chance to live out a childhood dream and meet some fantastic people. 

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“I’m now really excited to shift into a new working environment where I can hopefully add value using some of the skills developed through elite sport. Winning the Premiership here with Harlequins last season is my most cherished rugby memory. Overall, from the journey to New Zealand and finishing up back in London, I have been very lucky. I’m grateful to be able to put my all into the remainder of the Premiership season here at Quins with a title defence on the line. This is a special group that can and has done incredible things. I’m glad to be able to push for one more trophy before I bow out.”

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Harlequins director of rugby performance Billy Millard added on Symons: “Matt has been an absolute warrior for the club since he joined us four years ago. He is one of rugby’s good guys and was instrumental to our Premiership win last season. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with the big man.

“We wish him nothing but the absolute best as he transitions into his new role in the city at the end of the season and we look forward to a few more months of working together at the business end of our campaign before he retires.”

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