James Haskell has announced his retirement from rugby after ankle and toe injuries dogged his season with Saints.
The 34-year-old said on the House of Rugby video podcast: “I’m retiring because I was always going to try to retire after the world cup, ideally after having won it. I had book deals and action figures planned!
“I’ve had so many false starts, obviously there are a few weeks left of the season. I am trying to get back on to the field every day. I am going to a club that I love, with people I love to play a game that I love but every day because of the nature of the injury with my toe some days it has good days, some days it has bad days.
“I’ve had anaesthetic in it, tried one more thing and even that doesn’t work. I just know if I tried to force it I wouldnt be able to perform and we’re playing knockout rugby at the moment at Saints. For my own personal pride it would be terrible to go out on the field and not perform so I’ve had to call it a day. It’s come sooner than I expected. I don’t feel I want to stop.”
A statement released by Northampton Saints said:
Haskell made the short move across from Coventry to join Saints in 2018 after a stellar career at Wasps.
He made over 200 appearances in a 12-year career at Northampton’s Premiership rivals, splitting two spells at the club with stints across the globe at Stade Français, Ricoh Black Rams, and the Highlanders – playing on almost every stage world rugby has to offer.
Haskell also excelled at international level for over a decade, earning 77 caps for England, appearing at two Rugby World Cups to date and winning three Six Nations titles, including a Grand Slam in 2016 – the same year he was named ‘Man of the Series’ in the Red Rose’s whitewash of the Wallabies in Australia.
The flanker was then called up to the 2017 British & Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand – playing against a Hurricanes side that was then led by Saints’ director of rugby Chris Boyd.
Commenting on Haskell’s decision, Boyd said: “James has had a tough time with injuries this season and not run out for Saints as often as he’d like, but despite that he’s had a huge impact here and is an invaluable member of the squad.
“He brings to the table a vast amount of experience and is a consummate professional not to mention a superb example for our younger players.
“He has been a wonderful servant to the English game and I’ve no doubt he’ll be just as successful in his retirement.”
England head coach Eddie Jones – who selected Haskell for the Red Rose on 15 occasions – paid tribute to his career.
“When I look back at my time coaching James, it will always bring a smile to my face,” he said.
“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’.”