Top 5: Premiership Rugby Players Who Retired Early

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

With the unfortunate news of Nathan Catt hanging up his boots earlier than expected, we thought we would take a look back at those players who's careers were cut short due to injury.

There have been a number of starlets over the years who have had to call it a day due to the physical and mental toll that high standard Rugby causes. In the professional era, this has become a worryingly common occurrence. Just this year, we've had the likes of Jack Clifford and Alex Rieder also part ways with the sport due to serious health complications.

Rugby is a short career and in the grand scheme of things, it only takes one mistimed tackle, one botched surgery or one stray boot to put the kibosh on international hopes and dreams.

So join us as we count down our 'Top 5: Rugby Players Who Retired Early'...


5. Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins)

When researching for this list, I was stunned to find out that JTH is just 32 years old. With 172 appearances for Quins and 2 international caps, his statistics paint a picture of a long and bountiful Premiership career. However, he was forced to retire at just 27 due to a long standing hip problem that he couldn't recover from.

JTH started for Harlequins' first XV at just 17 years old and went on to represent the England under 20s on a regular basis over the next 3 years. His form saw him receive plaudits by the senior England set up, earning him his first start against the Barbarians in 2009. Abrasive, powerful and explosive, he was a star man in the campaign that saw Quins lift the Premiership trophy back in 2011/2012.

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4. Stuart Abbott MBE (Leicester, Wasps & Harlequins)

The South African - born, England World Cup winner was an absolute behemoth in the centre of a winning Wasps side that saw him lift multiple European and Domestic trophies. A real big - match player, Abbott scored a try in both Cup and Premiership finals back in 2003/2004. If it hadn't been for the highly tuned combination of Greenwood and Tindall, we are sure Abbott would have been a mainstay with his colleague Fraser Waters in the heart of a dominant England side.

However, in 2006 he made the shock move to newly promoted Harlequins, making just 17 appearances for them before retiring early due to a long-lasting shoulder injury. This injury didn't necessarily come as a surprise, as his injury-prone form at Wasps left him short of 100 appearances in the league. Fantastic handling, a great Rugby mind and a stalwart in Defence, Abbott never reached his ceiling despite finishing in his peak years at the age of 29.

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3. Tom Rees (Wasps)

Whenever we think of 'players that retired too early', Tom Rees tends to be the name that pops up most regularly. Representing England throughout the youth set up at Sevens, Under 16, Under 18, Under 19 and Under 21s level, he was forced into retirement due to persistent knee injuries back in 2012. Being a doctor himself, he probably knew it was the right time!

Back when Wasps were at their European - dominating best, Rees helped the push to domestic and continental glory in 2007 and 2008 whilst Wasps were under Shaun Edwards' stewardship. That earnt Rees a call up to the England squad of which he put in some standout performances in his 15 caps, most notably in a losing effort with New Zealand. His opposite number that day was a prime McCaw, of whom he actually had the better of throughout the match.

A natural leader, charismatic, strong as tosh over the rucks and a real jackal, Rees was already captain of Wasps when he was due to take the reigns in the international setup. Unfortunately he was forced to retire at 27 years old.

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2. Sam Jones (Wasps)

Another really difficult one here for Wasps fans in particular to remember, Sam Jones recently was forced into retirement in 2018 due to multiple leg injuries he suffered in an unusual judo session whilst away with England. This was a tour from hell for Premiership club supporters and coaches, who saw a plethora of high profile injuries from dodgy training sessions that dropped Eddie Jones in hot water.

Another outstanding player in his youth, Jones played Rugby for the England Under 16, Under 18 and Under 20s setup and was even called up to the Barbarians team to play England and the British and Irish Lions. He had already made 73 performances for the men in black up to this point and looked a shoo-in for the number 7 jersey, and potentially the Wasps captaincy, for years to come. Jones was just 26 when he announced his retirement, 18 months after he originally picked up the injuries. This came at a time where England were desperate for a quality flanker to replace the declining Tom Woods and Chris Robshaw. Luckily England and Wasps recovered, with a multitude of back row talent to now pick from; it's a case of 'what would have been'.

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1. Will Fraser (Saracens)

Unfortunately Flankers do pick up horrendous injuries, that might be why the last three entries have all been in the same position. Fraser is no exception to that quality, with 59 appearances for Saracens during their most dominant era. At one point he had accumulated more minutes on the pitch than anyone in the squad bar captain Steve Borthwick.

The first major injury set back came when he tour his tendon off of the bone in his shoulder against Gloucester Rugby in April 2013. The injury unfortunately ruled him out of Saracens' Premiership and Heineken Cup semi final defeats, as well as the possibility for selection in England's fantastic tour of Argentina. However, he did return 6 weeks earlier than expected and put in a great performance against Wasps in a winning effort.

Just six games in, he then suffered a horrendous injury after being stretchered off against Sale with a suspected broken foot and damaged knee ligaments. He did eventually come back to help Saracens win the Domestic and European double back in 2015/2016.

Just a year later he was forced into retirement due to a neck injury at just 27 years old.

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What did you think of our list? Anyone we missed, let us know!

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