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International

England Star Set to Retire at End of Season

One of England’s main players from the past number of years is going to call time on his career

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(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

England flanker James Haskell has announced that he plans to retire from professional rugby come the end of the season. 

The 34-year-old has had an injury-prone season with Northampton Saints and has been struggling with ankle and toe problems which has caused a restriction on his game time.

Haskell has thanked everyone involved in his career and is extremely grateful for the chance to play rugby at the highest level.

“I have loved every minute of my career in rugby and feel very privileged to have played with and against some exceptional players. There are so many people to thank, but in particular I would like to express my appreciation for all the coaches, trainers and physios who I have worked with throughout my career – from Maidenhead minis all the way up to England and the British & Irish Lions, I owe them all a huge debt of gratitude,” he said.

He also thanked the fans and his friends for supporting him through his glittering career.

“I also want to thank all my team mates over the years for putting up with me and giving me an adventure that allowed me to laugh every single day. My thanks go out to the supporters here at Northampton Saints too who have welcomed me with open arms; I wish I’d been able to offer more on the field this season. This next chapter was supposed to go a very different way, however that is the nature of professional sport. I’ve never spent so much time injured in my entire career, but I’m doing everything I can to help the squad here until my contract ends,” he added.

Having played a starring role in a Wasps team, Haskell moved to the Saints and even though he has suffered misfortunes during his time there, he admitted that retiring was a really tough decision.

“Retiring is obviously a really difficult decision for me to make; professional rugby has been the centre of my life for such a long time now and while it’s weird to imagine living without it, I look to the future with huge excitement. I look back at my career and have been very lucky to have done most things there are to do in rugby. Sadly, I will never know what it’s like to win a World Cup or represent the Barbarians. Finally, I would not have achieved what I have in this sport without the continued support of my amazing wife, my family, and my friends. To them all, I am incredibly grateful,” he finished.

The flanker has also had spells across the globe at Stade Francais, Ricoh Black Rams and he Highlanders and has over 200 club appearances.

Along with an incredible club career, Haskell has 77 caps for England and has won three Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam in 2016, as well as appearing at two World Cups and playing for the British & Irish Lions.

England head coach Eddie Jones has paid tribute to flanker and claimed that Haskell always made him smile.

“When I look back at my time coaching James, it will always bring a smile to my face. 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,” he said.

He also noted that Haskell will be missed from the game and applauded his contribution in every game he played.

“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’,” he added.

Haskell’s time throughout the game was filled with highlights and is still in with a chance of being named in the Red Rose’s World Cup squad later this year. However, Jones’ comments about him being missed from rugby will ring true with many in the sports community.

International

Australian Legend Calls Time on Sensational Career

One of Australian Rugby’s greatest players of all-time has pulled the curtain on a glittering career

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(Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

Australian flanker George Smith has announced his retirement after 20-years of playing professional rugby.

The 38-year-old confirmed the decision after his short-term contract with the Bristol Bears expired.

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle thanked Smith for his time in the game and noted how big a star he was.

“On behalf of the Australian rugby community I extend my congratulations to George on what has been an amazing career. George belongs in that rare category of player that could turn the course of a game in an instant with a crucial turnover, a powerful run or a big defensive play. He was universally respected by his team-mates and opponents and has been a huge presence in the clubs he has represented all over the world, as well as on the international stage with the Wallabies,” he said.

Capped 111 times at international level the Wallaby had spells with Bristol, Wasps, Suntory in Japan, Lyon, Stade Francais, Toulon, the Brumbies and Queensland Reds during his club career.

General manager of the Classic Wallabies and former teammate Justin Harrison acknowledged how good a player he was to play alongside.

“On behalf of the Classic Wallabies I pass on our congratulations to George on his remarkable rugby career. I, like many, had the great privilege of playing alongside George and I knew every time you played with him you knew you were playing alongside one of our greatest players and hairstyles,” he said.

He went on to welcome the legend to the Classic Wallabies team while also taking time to point out the impact Smith had on the game.

“George has inspired a whole generation of Australian rugby supporters to pick up a ball and play the game. We are richer for having had the opportunity to witness George playing in a gold Wallaby jersey. We now welcome George to the Classic Wallabies and we ask that he keeps one pair of boots for his first Classics capped match,” he added.

Smith managed to pick up two Super Rugby titles with the Brumbies along with 164 Super Rugby caps between his time with them and the Reds. Before it all began Smith was at Sydney side Manly where he was signed from by Eddie Jones in 1999 for the Brumbies and Smith remembers the day well as well as being thankful for the chance he was given.

“I’m grateful for his advice and friendship. The day I rocked up to sign my first Brumbies contract with dreadlocked hair, board shorts and thongs [flip-flops], I think back and shake my head as to why he didn’t just turn me away right there and then,” Smith said.

During his 12 years with the club he picked up 10 Players’ Player of the year awards, as well as two Wallabies Players’ Player of the year awards and will be remembered for everything he brought to the game.

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6 Nations

Leinster and Ireland Star Signs New Contract

One of Ireland’s key men has signed a new two-year deal with the IRFU

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Cian Healy has signed a new two-year deal with the IRFU to remain with Leinster and Ireland until the summer of 2021.

The prop is one of the country’s most consistent performers and is delighted to have the opportunity to continue representing both province and country.

“Pulling on a Leinster or an Ireland jersey is something that I have always taken a huge amount of pride in and I am thankful for every opportunity I get. I am delighted therefore to have extended my IRFU contract and to continue to line out for Leinster. I believe that we have built something special at Leinster and with the national team and I want to contribute as best I can to both teams in what will be a hugely exciting few months and years ahead,” he said.

Healy has faced a number of serious injuries over the years but has thanked everyone at club and national level for their support and looks forward to the future with both.

“There has been some difficult times over the last few years for me personally with injury but the support within the Leinster and the Irish rugby family was very humbling from fellow players, coaches and supporters and it’s something that I won’t forget. It made this decision all the easier knowing that I was part of something bigger than just a rugby team. I hope to play my part in helping Leinster and Ireland achieve further success over the next few years and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in that journey,” he added.

Having been capped by Ireland 88 times since his debut in 2009 and holding 207 Leinster caps to his name already Healy is almost ever-present and IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora paid tribute to his consistency.

“Cian is performing at a very high level week in and week out. He works incredibly hard in ensuring that he is physically in the best condition to perform and has bounced back from adversity to return to the top of the international and club game. He will continue to be a leading performer for Ireland and Leinster over the coming years,” he said.

Healy has represented Ireland at two World Cups (2011 and 2015) and will be hoping to be heading to a third in Japan later this year, he also represented the British and Irish Lions in 2013.

As well as that Healy has a host of winner’s medals to his name with three Six Nations Championships in the bag for Ireland, while with Leinster he has won four European Cups, three Guinness Pro titles and a Challenge Cup.

Healy will be hoping to end the week on a high when he has the chance to add a fourth league title to his name as Leinster head to Celtic Park to face Glasgow Warriors in the Pro 14 final.

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International

Former Scottish International Retires at Just 31

One of Scotland’s most popular players has called time on his playing career

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Former Scotland international and current Harlequins winger Tim Visser will close the curtain on his career at the end of the season at just 31. 

Known as “The Flying Dutchman” having been found in his native Netherlands playing sevens rugby, Visser joined Harlequins in 2015 from Edinburgh and has made 66 appearances for the club.

Visser has thanked Harlequins for his chance to play for them but is looking forward to settling down with his family.

“I’d like to thank everyone at Harlequins for the opportunity to be part of such a fantastic club. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here. I feel now is the time for me to move on to new challenges outside of rugby with my young family. I’m looking forward to trying and proving myself in a completely different career,” he said.

The winger played for Scotland 33 times scoring 14 tries and Harlequins boss Paul Gustard paid tribute to his impressive career.

“Tim has enjoyed an exceptional career and has been a fantastic servant over the past three seasons here at Harlequins. I have thoroughly enjoyed his company and have always respected his commitment, attitude and humour since I joined the club last July. He is an immensely valued and very popular member of the squad whom we will miss. We all wish him and his family the very best as he embarks on a new adventure,” he said.

Visser started his career in the UK with Newcastle Falcons before his move to Edinburgh and then Quins. He also represented Scotland at the 2015 World Cup and scored against the USA in the pool stages and will be remembered fondly among fans of the game.

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