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On This Day in 2004: Jason Leonard retires from international rugby

On This Day in 2004: Jason Leonard retires from international rugby
The prop was the world’s most capped player at the time.

World Cup winner Jason Leonard announced the end of his international rugby career on March 9, 2004.

The then 35-year-old prop was the world’s most capped player at the time with 114 appearances for England, overtaking the mark of France’s Philippe Sella.

He also made five appearances for the British and Irish Lions during three tours and a glittering career took in the victorious 2003 Rugby World Cup campaign and four Grand Slams in the Five and Six Nations.

Leonard made his Test debut in 1990 against Argentina and his longevity was a remarkable achievement considering the front row is the most brutal of places to operate.

It was family considerations that prompted Leonard to hang up his boots, with the father-of-three saying: “The thought of being in New Zealand and Australia for nearly a month this summer is too much.

“Any longer than two weeks starts to hurt too much in terms of missing the family. You have to be selfish as an international rugby player and you always want to do more. That means you miss out on things at home and that’s why I know this is the right time.

The England squad with the Webb Ellis Trophy in 2003 (David Davies/PA)
The England squad with the Webb Ellis Trophy in 2003 (David Davies/PA)

“I have had a great career with absolutely no regrets and I am very happy with my decision to quit international rugby after the Six Nations.”

Leonard was hugely popular among his team-mates, and former hooker Brian Moore said: “As a person there’s none better really. He is fiercely loyal, a man of his own mind and a tremendous competitor. In terms of the all-time great props, he’s right at the very top.”

Leonard remained active in rugby following his retirement. He was president of the RFU from 2015-2016 and is currently a board member for the Six Nations and chairman of the Lions. He was awarded an OBE following England’s World Cup win.

He also runs The Funbus – his nickname while playing – which takes guests on a pub crawl around London.