NEWCASTLE FALCONS flanker John Hardie has announced he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the current season.

The 32-year-old has played provincial rugby for his native Southland, Super Rugby with the Highlanders, club rugby for Edinburgh and Newcastle Falcons as well as being capped 16 times by Scotland.

A foraging openside who threw his body into every single match, Hardie’s three seasons on Tyneside saw him making 30 appearances for Falcons, the most recent of which came last month away to Exeter Chiefs.

“I think I could play for another year or two, but with the way the body is and the time it takes to recover between games – I just think it’s the right time to move on to a different career path,” said Hardie. “It has to happen sometime, so it’s better that I decide it on my own terms. I feel like I’m playing good rugby, and I just don’t want to be hanging around or holding on for too long.

“With the way I play the game you have to throw everything into it, and whereas it used to be one or two days to get over a game, now it’s pretty much the full week until it’s time to play again on the weekend.

“I won’t miss waking up feeling like roadkill on a Sunday morning, but I’ve enjoyed my career and I’ve got nothing but gratitude for what rugby has given me.”

Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: “I’d like to congratulate John on a fantastic career, and personally thank him for his contribution during his three seasons with us.

“He has been an outstanding professional during that period, and as well as his exploits on the field he has passed on his knowledge and contributed towards a really positive culture among the squad.

“I know I speak for everybody at Kingston Park in thanking John and wishing him well for the future, and I’m sure he’ll be a success in whichever field he chooses to go.”

Hardie added: “Professional rugby has been my life ever since the age of 17 or 18 when I signed my first contract, and it’s given me so much.

“I owe an incredible amount to my family for the way they’ve supported me throughout, and it’s taken me to some awesome places. I’ve made incredible friends."