Now that 2022 is behind us, it is time to reflect on the careers of some stars of the game who bowed out at the top.
As you can see from our selection, in alphabetical order (with the test teams represented in brackets), there is class and caps in abundance.
To qualify for the list, players had to have last played test or World Series rugby no later than 2019.
Kurt Baker (New Zealand men’s sevens)
Baker achieved cult hero status for his achievements and longevity in the game of sevens during a highly successful period for the All Blacks Sevens team. The 34-year-old, from Palmerston North, debuted for the All Blacks Sevens in 2008 and went on to play in 233 World Sevens Series matches, Dubai in December being his last.
During his time playing in the All Blacks Sevens jersey, Baker won two Commonwealth Games gold medals (2010, 2018), two Rugby World Cup Sevens gold medals (2013, 2018) and one Olympic silver medal (2020), in addition to five World Series title wins and 12 World Series tournament wins.
While never capped by the All Blacks, Baker was a notable contributor to the Highlanders in 15s and played seven matches on the wing for the Māori All Blacks.
Iliseva Batibasaga (Australia women)
Batibasaga retires as the longest-tenured Wallaroo, having made her debut for Australia against South Africa at Rugby World Cup 2006 in Canada.
The product of Norths Eagles in Brisbane represented her country at scrum-half 26 times, remarkably scoring her first try in her penultimate match against Wales at Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand.
Shaunagh Brown (England women)
A huge character who has done so much to promote women’s rugby, Brown announced her retirement just before the year’s end, bringing the curtain down on a multi-decorated career for club and country.
The versatile Harlequins forward, who played both flanker and prop, won 30 Red Roses caps after converting from the Hammer discipline in athletics. Brown, 32, won Women's Six Nations titles and appeared at the recent Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Kendra Cocksedge (New Zealand women)
Winning Rugby World Cup for a third time was a fitting way for the Black Ferns legend to sign off on a record-breaking career. The 34-year-old scrum-half played in four tournaments in total, including a game-changing effort in the 2017 final, also against England, with 11 second-half points.
Cocksedge was named World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year in 2015 and in the World Rugby Team of the Decade in 2020 and is both the highest points scorer and most-capped Black Fern of all time. Cocksedge scored 391 points in her 69 test appearances and captained the team on one occasion.
Branco du Preez (South Africa men’s sevens)
Du Preez, 32, retires as South Africa’s most-capped Springbok Sevens player.
The Blitzboks legend made his HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series debut in Wellington in 2010 and appeared in 85 tournaments in total, having taken the decision to stand down following the HSBC Cape Town Sevens.
Du Preez played in 431 matches and scored 1,447 points, including 101 tries, a career-high 468 conversions and a drop goal in a career that saw him clinch 24 tournament wins and three World Series gold medals. Du Preez also has a Commonwealth Games gold medal to his name.
Guilhem Guirado (France men)
Captained France from hooker in 33 of his 74 tests. After making his debut in 2008, Guirado became a regular fixture in Les Bleus’ side from 2011 onwards and appeared in three Rugby World Cups, bowing out of the international arena in the 20-19 quarter-final defeat to Wales in 2019.
Guirado also won both European competitions and the Top 14 title in the club game across his spells at Toulon and latterly Montpellier.
George Kruis (England men and British and Irish Lions)
The England second-row used the occasion of his 32nd birthday back in February to announce his decision to retire at the end of the season to enable him to concentrate on his business interests.
Kruis won 45 caps in the England boiler room and appeared at two Rugby World Cups, including the final defeat to South Africa in 2019, and could have possibly gone to a third had he not called time on his career at a relatively young age.
The Saracens legend, who won four Premiership titles and three European Cups, also won a solitary Lions cap in New Zealand in 2017.
Maxime Medard (France men)
Medard won 63 caps for his country between 2008 and 2019, at full-back and on the wing, as well as enjoying a trophy-laden club career with Toulouse. An instinctive and intelligent player, Medard appeared at Rugby World Cups in 2011 and 2019, making the last of his test appearances in the quarter-final defeat to Wales at the latter.
During his time with Toulouse, he won three Champions Cup titles and five Top 14 trophies and scored 113 tries in 366 matches for Les Rouges et Noir.
Thank you for the last 14 years.— Daniel Norton (@Dan_Norton4) September 4, 2022
Some moments and memories that will live with me forever.
Picture 2 is hands down one of my proudest moments on a field.
✌🏾#Rugbydean #Rugby7s #Memories pic.twitter.com/qCWVOISmBw
Dan Norton (England and Great Britain men’s sevens)
It is every professional sportsperson’s goal to bow out at the very top of their game, and in terms of rugby sevens, no one could have got much higher than Dan Norton, who announced in April that the HSBC Canada Sevens would be his 92nd and last World Series tournament, leaving him one behind his former England team-mate and record appearance holder James Rodwell.
But one area where Norton is unrivalled – and will continue to be for the foreseeable future – is in the try-scoring stakes. Norton’s record of 358 World Series tries is 79 more than his nearest rival, Kenya’s Collins Injera.
In addition to representing England on the global stage for many years, Norton was also a member of the Great Britain team that won silver at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Sean O’Brien (Ireland men and British and Irish Lions)
Indefatigable openside who enjoyed a 10-year test career with Ireland (2009-19) and would have won far more than 56 caps (six tries) had the Leinster man not been so unfortunate with injuries.
O’Brien is also a two-time British and Irish Lions tourist having been to Australia in 2013 and New Zealand in 2017, winning five caps. On the latter tour, he finished off what has been hailed as one of the Lions’ all-time greatest tries, which started by Liam Williams’ audacious break from the back.
Liz Patu (Australia women)
Initially a number eight with the West Bulldogs in Queensland, Patu switched to the front row in 2013 and won her first cap a year later off the bench against New Zealand.
Within months, she made the squad for Rugby World Cup 2014 and her first start came against the USA at prop, although she did also have two starts at hooker later on in her test career.
Patu also appeared at the next two Rugby World Cups with the quarter-final defeat to England in Auckland her last appearance in the green and gold jersey. With 33 test matches under her belt, Patu retires as the most-capped Wallaroo in the team’s history.
Virimi Vakatawa (France men)
The giant, Fijian-born winger sadly had to retire in November on medical grounds, bringing to an end his six-year test career. Vakatawa announced his arrival with a try-scoring debut against Italy in the 2016 Six Nations and had 10 to his name by the time a heart condition put a halt to his 32-cap career.
Vakatawa also appeared in 18 tournaments for France on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and became an Olympian at the Rio Games in 2016.
Florin Vlaicu (Romania men)
Back in March, the Romanian fly-half/centre became the seventh player to score 1,000 test points, and the first from an emerging nation to achieve the remarkable milestone, when he slotted his first kick at goal in the Oaks’ 28-27 win against Portugal in Lisbon.
Vlaicu had 16 years at the highest level and appeared in three Rugby World Cups. He retires as Romania’s record points scorer (1,030 points) and most-capped player (129 caps).
Devin Toner (Ireland men)
A towering presence in every sense of the word, the 2.09m tall Toner was a key pillar of Joe Schmidt’s successful Ireland team while also being a name synonymous with Leinster’s rise through Europe.
Toner played 70 times for Ireland between 2010 and 2020 – 50 of those matches were wins – and won three Six Nations titles and was a member of the 2018 Grand Slam-winning team.
Now 36, Toner retires as Leinster’s record appearance holder.