Retiring rugby players: no final farewells in 2020?

EXETER, ENGLAND - MARCH 07: Francois Louw of Bath leads his team off the field following their defeat during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Exeter Chiefs and Bath Rugby at Sandy Park on March 07, 2020 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

For reasons that we are all aware of, the 2019/20 rugby season is in increasing danger of never being finished. While it will not be the highest priority on everyone’s minds, some retiring rugby players may have already played their last game. If the season cannot be completed, some big names of World Rugby will miss out on a final farewell.

Retiring rugby players in 2020

Francois Louw

The 34 year-old World Cup winner only announced he would hang up his boots in early March, just before the Premiership season was put on hold. Louw has been at Bath for nine seasons, making him one of the club’s longest-serving players. Indeed, nine years is a commendable innings of loyalty by any standards.

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Francois Louw has built a reputation as a breakdown specialist and has been a key asset for Bath and South Africa for most of the last decade. Before coming over to England he was part of Stormers back row also including Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen. Winning the World Cup was, naturally, the perfect peak of an international career that saw him amass 76 Test caps.

Ben Franks

A player who has not perhaps been at the peak of the game for a few years, but nonetheless a highly decorated All Black. Franks currently plays for Northampton Saints having moved to England and London Irish after the 2015 World Cup.

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The tighthead prop was a replacement in both the 2011 and 2015 World Cup finals, making him one of only 21 men to hold two World Cup winners medals. Before moving to England Franks played for the Crusaders and then the Hurricanes, where he first played for Chris Boyd. He has combined with brother Owen and Boyd at Northampton but announced his retirement towards the end of February this year.

James Hook

James Hook burst onto the scene for the Ospreys in 2006, back then the region was a dominant power in the Magners League (as it was). As a utility back he was naturally compared to teammate Gavin Henson and in different circumstances, those two could have been vying for the Wales number ten shirt for many years.

Whilst Henson had several injuries and off-field issues, Hook became an established figure for region and country and went on the British and Irish Lions tour in 2009. In 2011 he joined Perpignan in France, remaining until their relegation from the Top 14 in 2014.

After returning from France, Hook joined Gloucester and will be best remembered for a monster winning kick against Saracens in 2015.

Hook returned to Ospreys in 2017 and announced he would retire at the end of the current season. The 34-year-old is venturing into writing children’s books which may come sooner than expected now.

Sergio Parisse

Global crises seem to be following Sergio Parisse around. First his send-off at the 2019 World Cup in Japan was curtailed by Typhoon Hagibis, and then his final Six Nations outing was postponed because of coronavirus. He was due to run out one last time in Rome against England on March 14th. It’s still uncertain whether this match or the Six Nations overall will be completed.

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Fortunately, Parisse has amassed enough career highlights to still be remembered as a great. He has still been playing at the highest level in France with Toulon this season. The 36-year-old spent the vast majority of his career in France, predominantly with Stade Francais.

Whilst his club career may continue for another season, his international career will, at some point, be coming to an end.

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