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Retiring Hartley is fondly farewelled

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Tributes galore for the retiring Dylan Hartley... even referee Nigel Owens has wished him well

Dylan Hartley’s former Northampton Saints and England team-mates have paid tribute to the hooker after he announced his retirement from rugby on Thursday. 

The 33-year-old failed to overcome a knee injury that has plagued him over the past year and has decided to hang up his boots, but he clearly left an impact on those that he played with. 

Both Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood, who perhaps played alongside Hartley the most with England and the Saints, both described him as a “legend” on Instagram after playing over 250 club games and being part of the squad that won the Premiership title in 2014. 

Ex-England international James Haskell, who spent the last year of his career alongside Hartley at Northampton, also gave a glowing tribute to the 97-cap England international, saying: “Nobody else could have led England like he did from the aftermath of 2015.”

Hartley was infamously omitted from Stuart Lancaster’s 2015 World Cup squad which failed to make it out of their pool at the tournament. 

(Continue reading below…)

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That was a low point for English rugby and Hartley was given the responsibility by new coach Eddie Jones to guide England out of the doldrums, which he did as they went on to win the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2016. 

The New Zealand-born hooker also guided England to a 3-0 series win in Australia, a record-equaling 18-Test win streak and the Six Nations title in 2017. Unfortunately, his latest injury prevented him from leading England in Japan this past World Cup.

While being England’s second-most capped player will live long in many people’s memories, what Hartley achieved with England post-2015 has defined him – certainly as a Test level player – and this has been recognised by Haskell. 

Many others from the rugby world have also shared tributes to Hartley, who finished his career as England’s second most successful captain in terms of his 85 per centage win ratio (of those who captained England over 15 times). Only World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson has a better record. 

Referee Nigel Owens also described the front row as “challenging at times” on the field, which is undeniable. Hartley’s passion and confrontational attitude got him into a lot of trouble throughout his career, but they were surely the qualities that made him such a successful captain as well. 

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Tributes galore for the retiring Dylan Hartley... even referee Nigel Owens has wished him well