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'Best day not with England'

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Retiring Dylan Hartley explains why best day of his career wasn't with England

Former England captain Dylan Hartley has described winning the Premiership with Northampton Saints as the best day of his career. 

The 33-year-old retired on Thursday after missing almost a year of rugby with a persistent knee injury. He struggled to shake the injury off in time to make the World Cup with England and has now had to concede defeat in what he has described on Instagram as “a rollercoaster of a career”.

Hartley finishes his career as England’s second-most capped player with 97 caps, 30 as captain, with a win percentage in charge that only Martin Johnson has bettered of those who have captained England over 15 times.

The hooker led England to a Grand Slam in 2016, the Six Nations title in 2017, and he was also part of the title-winning squad in 2011. However, reflecting on his career, Hartley described winning the Premiership in 2014 as the “best day of my rugby career no doubt”.

This may come as a surprise after the glittering Test innings he has had with England, but it is also an insight into how significant that club victory was at Twickenham five years ago.

View this post on Instagram

Fat lady singing means it’s time to take off the playing boots and limp off into the real world ? 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, teammates, 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 ? Im truly excited (and nervous!) about what the future holds and can’t wait to see where I go next. Thank you.

A post shared by Dylan Hartley (@dylanhartley) on

After joining Northampton in 2006 from Worcester Warriors, Hartley endured some turbulent years in the Midlands with the club even relegated. 

But it was with the Saints that Hartley became the player that he was and that is why it is understandable why lifting the Premiership trophy was so important to him, particularly after an epic final that went to extra time. 

The curtain has now been drawn on one of England rugby’s most interesting careers, which saw Hartley move to England from New Zealand as a teenager in order to play Test rugby. 

Of course, it has not been a career without controversy, as he missed out on a British and Irish Lions tour in 2013 for a Premiership final red card. But he declared he wouldn’t change a thing. “None of which I’d change as all the experiences have led to the man I am today.”

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Retiring Dylan Hartley explains why best day of his career wasn't with England