Making the decision to retire from professional rugby is never one taken lightly.

You are often giving up all that you have known as a job and the perks that come with it.

Replacing the dressing room camaraderie, the adrenaline of playing in front of tens of thousands of fans as well as the level of income you’ve grown accustomed to over the years is a big deal.

So it’s not that surprising that some players do a U-turn and come out of gardening leave in order to step back onto the field of dreams instead.

Here are some examples of players who refused to slip away quietly…


We’d thought we’d seen the last of one of the world’s best full-backs when the All Black announced in December 2021 that he’d hung up his boots for good. However, Kobe Steelers said this month that the Rugby World Cup 2015 winner with 84 caps to his name has re-signed for them in time for the next Japan Rugby League One season.


‘Billy Whizz’ was more than a match for the most elite of defences during his time as a British and Irish Lion, England international and Sale Sharks legend. So pity the poor souls of National League 2 North rugby in England when he opted to dust down his twinkling boots and sign on for Fylde, the club where World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont is still a member, aged 35.


The iconic Springbok prop wouldn’t have had the opportunity to become the only South African to have played in the Springboks’ first two Rugby World Cup wins had he not been persuaded out of retirement by Jake White. A torn hamstring led to Du Randt retiring in 2000 but after four years on the sidelines passed by, the 1995 and 2007 champion loose-head was back in the test arena.


Tired of injuries and of playing rugby, Mitchell decided to start a new chapter in his life while with Toulon in the South of France in 2017. All was going well in his new career as a rugby commentator and pundit but the offer of a stint in America sufficiently piqued the prolific try-scoring winger’s interest and the former 71-cap Wallaby opted for one last hurrah with MLR outfit Rugby United New York in 2020.


The Springbok great decided to call it a day initially after appearing for the Barbarians in November 2011, having played what everyone thought was his last test for South Africa at the Rugby World Cup a few months earlier. However, the veteran second-row was tempted out of retirement by the Bulls’ offer of a two-year contract in time for the 2014 Super Rugby season. Matfield added 17 caps to the 110 he’d already won with his final total of 127 test appearances the most by a Springbok.


The former England fly-half signed for London Irish for the 2015/16 season but never actually played a game for the Exiles, citing injuries as the reason for his shock retirement. However, Goode was lacing up his boots a few months later after signing a short-term deal with Newcastle Falcons. Goode was an instant hit in the three months he spent at the Falcons and his ability to control a game and kick points from the tee was a big factor in them staying up in the Gallagher Premiership at Irish’s expense.

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