Former England captain Dylan Hartley announces retirement

Dylan Hartley led England to a Grand Slam at the 2016 Six Nations. Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Former England captain Dylan Hartley has announced his retirement from rugby.

Hartley, 33, led England to a Grand Slam at the 2016 Six Nations and captained his nation in 30 Tests.

At club level, the New Zealand-born hooker led the Northampton Saints to runner-up finishes in the 2011 Heineken Cup and the 2013 English Premiership, before winning the Premiership final against Saracens in 2014.

Hartley has not played since sustaining a knee injury 11 months ago, and his club hoped as recently as this week that he might return.

"I am extremely proud of my journey both with Saints and representing England, but now is the right time to hang up my playing boots," Hartley said.

"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, but I have to thank all the staff at Saints who have all invested so much time in helping me with my rehabilitation.

"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.

"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."

Hartley represented Northampton from 2006 all the way up until his retirement.