Sport is a fickle master: just months after local rugby club Warlingham was celebrating the promotion to the England captaincy of Chris Robshaw comes news that another Hamsey Green old boy, London Wasps captain John Hart, has been forced to retire from the game through injury.
Back-row forward Hart, 30, has struggled with a persistent shoulder injury all season. Hart tore knee ligaments in a European Challenge Cup match with Bayonne in December and spent three months on the sidelines. He then aggravated his shoulder injury when he returned to action against Northampton last month.
Hart had made his debut for Wasps in 2003, and spent much of his early career shadowing for World Cup-winner and then club captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, in the process winning both the Premiership and the Heineken Cup on two occasions. He made more than 160 career appearances for the side, 38 as captain.
“I’m really disappointed to bow out this way, but the decision was taken out of my hands,” Hart said announcing his decision.
“I had hoped to carry on to the end of the season but after the game against Northampton it was clear I wouldn’t be able to,” he said.
“I will look back on my time with the Club with great pride and always know how privileged I was to win Premiership and Heineken Cup titles.”
Hart’s premature retirement is just the latest set-back in a crisis season for Wasps, the club which dominated English and European rugby in the past decade.
The club has been put up for sale, is verging on insolvency losing £2 million per year, its owner has been arrested on a separate manner, results on the pitch have been so poor that Wasps are flirting with relegation from the Premiership, and meanwhile a string of quality and experienced players with a hat-shop-full of international caps have been forced to quit the game or have been long-term injuries.
Hart is just one of a handful of players from Croydon-based schools and clubs who have progressed to play at the highest levels of rugby. As well as Robshaw, they include former Trinity schoolboy George Chuter, Paul Sackey, who went to John Fisher, and Daily Mail Cup-winner with Whitgift, Danny Cipriani, the former England fly-half who is leaving Melbourne Rebels to play for Sale next season.
But even in Hart’s 2012 team at Wasps, there’s another player whose formative years were spent learning the game on Croydon playing fields: outside centre Elliot Daly, 19 and less than a year since leaving Whitgift, has been thrown into the Wasps first-team mix this season, and not looked out of place, even kicking a 50-yard penalty to seal victory in a recent vital Premiership match.
- Former Warlingham player Robshaw waits on England decision (insidecroydon.com)
- Wasps in desperate fight for Aviva Premiership survival as unprecedented injury toll savages squad (telegraph.co.uk)
- Wasps to continue with youth (skysports.com)