Former England captain Dylan Hartley has opened up about the brutal nature of professional rugby’s transition from a semi-professional sport.
In a wide-ranging interview with England’s Daily Telegraph, Hartley looked back on his Test career and spoke about working with Eddie Jones.
The 34-year-old hooker made his Test debut for England back in 2008 and played Test rugby for over a decade, captaining the nation and winning 97 caps.
However, a plethora of injuries – including bone breaks, ligament tears, snapped tendons, popped ribs, nerve damage and bulging discs – caused Hartley to miss a total of 1,320 days of his career.
Reflecting on his career, which ended in 2018 due to an ongoing knee injury, the ex-Northampton Saints player made a brutally honest admission about how both he and his teammates have been treated in the professional era of rugby.
‘My generation of players have been crash dummies for a sport in transition from semi-professionalism,’ Hartley told the Telegraph.
‘It’s being reshaped, subtly but relentlessly, by money men, geo-politicians, talking heads and television executives. They treat us as warm bodies, human widgets.
‘It would be wrong to attempt to skirt the unavoidable truth that as players become bigger, faster and stronger they will be chewed up and spat out quicker,’ Hartley said.
The Telegraphreported that to this day, Hartley is still affected by the injuries that he suffered during his rugby career. Due to three concussions late in his career, Hartley still gets dizzy spells and muddles his words.
‘I try to enjoy what’s happening now, but it’s always a concern,’ Hartley added on his concerns of long-term brain injury.
Photo: David Rodgers/Getty Images