England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot has paid tribute to the retiring CJ Stander while admitting his announcement will galvanise Ireland ahead of their clash in Dublin on Saturday.
Stander on Tuesday announced that he would be retiring from professional rugby at the end of the current season to return to South Africa.
Still just 30 years old, he qualified to represent Ireland in 2016 after moving to Munster from the Vodacom Bulls in 2012 and recently made his 50th appearance against Scotland.
The announcement appeared to have caught Stander’s Ireland teammates off guard, with captain Johnny Sexton admitting it was a ‘shock’, but Proudfoot – who played for Scotland – said he wasn’t surprised by the decision.
‘Family reasons are very powerful reasons, very powerful motivators for people. You know … no, I am not surprised,’ Proudfoot said.
‘I think the world is in a very tough place and the things that motivate you in life, your reasons why, are very important and you need to take care of them. He spoke about his whys as playing the game and being the best he could be, and his family.
‘And when those two come into conflict it must be a tough place to be as a player, having to pick between the two things you care the most about in the world.
‘I am just really congratulating him on a fantastic career, he has been incredible for his team and he’s been consistent, he’s led from the front, he’s led the way he plays, he’s a good man. I just wish him well in his next endeavours.
‘Like myself, he made a decision for his life and it took him on an incredible adventure. He was loyal to that adventure and for that I congratulate him. Well done, it has an incredible career.’
England will travel to Dublin this weekend, looking to build on last Saturday’s morale-boosting win over France and end their Six Nations campaign on a high.
However, Proudfoot said he expects Ireland to only be further motivated by Stander’s retirement.
‘He has been a talisman for their pack and team for a long, long time,’ said Proudfoot. ‘He plays with his heart on his sleeve. He’s a tough, tough competitor, tough man.
‘I’m sure they’ll want to close his chapter on the right note. We can expected a highly motivated Irish team really looking to come at us. We need to confront that and get ourselves on the front foot.’
Photo: Getty Images