Former England skipper and Northampton Saints hooker Dylan Hartley has announced his retirement from professional rugby with immediate effect.
The decision follows after he failed to make sufficient recovery from a long-standing knee injury that he suffered while playing for the Saints in December. The injury also kept him out of contention for England's Six Nations campaign and World Cup this year.
The 33-year-old made his England debut in 2008 and has gone on to play for the red rose team 97 times. He is also England's most-capped hooker in the history of the game and has captained them on 30 occasions.
"The last few months have been difficult for me both mentally and physically as I've come to terms with the fact that I am no longer able to compete," said Hartley in a statement released by the club.
"But I have to thank all the staff at Saints who have all invested so much time in helping me with my rehabilitation, in particular strength and conditioning coach Eamonn Hyland.
"I have loved my journey in rugby. I came to England as a teenager hoping to get a few games of rugby and to see the world. I could have never predicted that one day I'd play 14 years for such a special club and go on to represent and captain England".
Hartley's professional rugby debut came with Worcester Warriors in 2005 but moved to Northampton Saints a year later and has made 251 appearances for the Franklin's Gardens outfit since then including 148 games in the Premiership. In 2009, Hartley was appointed the captain of the Saints and during his stint, the club will go on to win the Premiership title, two European Challenge Cups, and an Anglo-Welsh Cup.
"Northampton Saints has been more than just a club to me. It has been a place that has provided me with direction, purpose, a sense of family, home and belonging; and ultimately a community that I was so proud to represent every time I got a chance to play for Northampton.
"My career wasn't perfect, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. I'm privileged to have experienced some amazing highs while there have also been some personal lows, all of which are powerful experiences that will stay with me forever.
"The final chapter of my career was supposed to go a different way, but that is the nature of professional sport."