England captain Dylan Hartley is ready to return to action after five months out due to concussion.
The polarising figure also made a stunning claim that he will be able to play rugby for a further 18 years, until age 50.
How many of those will be in the professional ranks remains to be seen, but if he can continuing playing into his forties he will join elusive company.
After accepting he needed to step away from rugby to aid his recovery, Hartley is now keen to feature in Northampton’s league opener against Gloucester on September 1.
“I sought good advice and I trusted what they said,” said Hartley.
“I am confident I will play rugby until I am 50.
“I had no concerns. I surrounded myself with the right advice and here I am, ready to play.
“At the time, [sitting out] was disappointing because you want to be involved in everything. You don’t want to miss games.
“But once the decision had been made for me and we agreed on it, I had made peace with that.
“As soon as I took my foot off the gas and stopped trying to make it back every week, which I was trying to do, I felt myself instantly get better. Removing those kind of pressures has worked.
“I have had a good pre-season with the team and I am in a good place to compete for a spot in the next fortnight.”
Hartley also took part in a three-day training camp with the national team this month and is one of Eddie Jones key players.
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