Former England and star Ben Foden retires from rugby

Former England full-back and Northampton Saints veteran Ben Foden has announced his decision to retire from rugby.

After an 18-year career spent playing among some of the sport's top competitions, the 36-year-old will step down from his playing duties. The announcement comes midway through the current Major League Rugby campaign, where he'd been contracted with Rugby New York since 2019.

Foden started a glittering Premiership career with Sale Sharks, where he made his Premiership debut in 2005 and went on to win his first English title the following year. He joined Northampton in 2008 and scored 59 tries in 251 appearances for the club, lifting the Premiership crown again when they beat Saracens in the 2014 final.

"So after lots of deliberation I’ve decided to finally hang up my playing boots from professional rugby," he told his 106,000 Instagram followers in an emotional post. "From a young ‘Pop Idol’ starting at @salesharks to 10 years at @northamptonsaints to finally finishing my career with @rugbyunitedny it’s been a 18 year career filled with every emotion possible.

"Rugby has given me so much through my life time and given me enough memories to keep me smiling for the rest of my days. It’s taken me all over the world and I feel privileged to say it’s given me friendships and a family I can always depend on. To everyone who has been part of this journey with me, thank you for everything!"

Foden earned the nickname 'Pop Idol' at Sale after he infamously once missed the first day of pre-season training in order to audition on the singing competition. As fate would have it, he later went on to feature on The X Factor: Celebrity edition, where he placed fifth as part of his group, 'Trystar'.

What's your favourite memory from Ben Foden's rugby career? Let us know in the comments section.

He also participated in the most recent season of Dancing on Ice in early 2022 but was the first celebrity to be eliminated from the show. Wife Jackie Smith Foden fumed at ITV bosses at the time of her partner's exit, asking what the point of the show was in what was "really just a popularity competition."

Despite remaining on the books with Rugby New York, Foden didn't feature on their 2022 roster as he explored his avenues outside rugby. The ex-utility back told RugbyPass in January that he declined an offer to play this year, although he was keen to "transition from playing into coaching."

"Rugby really is a wonderful game and has certainly enriched my life," his retirement post concluded. "I promise to always, (wherever possible) give back to the game I loved playing so much. Excited for the next chapter in my life and what’s around the corner. Finally thank you Dad for making this incredible journey possible."

Foden made 34 appearances for England between 2009 and 2013, featuring at the 2011 Rugby World Cup where he started all four games in their perfect run through the pool stage. Although the team were disappointed to exit at the hands of eventual runners-up France in the last eight, Foden scored one of their two tries during that quarter-final defeat.

He was also one of the first high-profile names to make the jump to the United States when the rebranded Major League competition gained prominence. Although Rugby New York failed to win a title during his time at the club, Foden played a major role in shining a light on the North American league.

The former Premiership mainstay has spoken positively of his hopes to forge a coaching career in the U.S., where "the sport is only just taking off." Although the days of seeing Foden dazzle first-hand on the field may be over, there's a chance his rugby influence will be felt for some time to come.

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