Former England No 8 Nick Easter has ended his playing career in order to concentrate on his new post as Harlequins’ defence coach.
Easter had planned to be available for selection by the Aviva Premiership club next season, but has since decided his transition to a tracksuit role will be better served if it is full-time.
The 37-year-old played his first professional match at Orrell in 2001 and he went on to make 281 appearances across 20,627 minutes of rugby after joining Quins three years later.
“Having accepted the opportunity to become a coach-player by [director of rugby] John Kingston, I took some time to think about my career,” Easter said.
“I realised that whether I’m playing or coaching, there was no possible way that I would be able to give 100 per cent to both of my roles at the same time.
“I thought, why not grab the opportunity of becoming a coach with both hands, give it my best shot and feel privileged to be in a position to go out on my own terms after 12 great years as a player for Harlequins?
“I’m a few weeks into my role now and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Having had five weeks in the off-season to finalise it and four weeks now as a coach, I don’t regret my decision. I can’t wait for the new season to begin.”
In a newspaper interview on Thursday, Easter admitted that he had struggled for motivation to play towards the end of last season and highlighted the “individual agendas” and lack of hunger that have held Quins back since they won the Premiership title in 2012.
Easter, whose game was based on skill and intelligence rather than all-out power, has been a key member of Harlequins’ back row and was similarly prominent for England between 2007 and 2011, making 54 appearances for his country.
He captained England during that time and appeared at two World Cups, but was jettisoned by head coach Stuart Lancaster when Martin Johnson’s successor took over five years ago.
Lancaster cited Easter’s age as the reason for his international exile, but his irresistible form for Quins in the 2014-15 campaign led to his recall for last year’s RBS Six Nations and he was an injury call-up for England 2015 – his third World Cup.
While stating he would never willingly retire from international rugby, he has not been on Eddie Jones’ radar and his playing days at Twickenham Stoop are now also over.
“Nick has been an unbelievable servant to the Harlequins team for over a decade,” Kingston said.
“He has been at the very heartbeat of all the successes the side has achieved over this period.
“Nick has a fantastic rugby brain and it is for this reason I offered him the opportunity to join the new-look coaching team at the club.
“Both Nick and I have agreed it is in the best interests of Quins that he focuses on his coaching exclusively from now.
“While a Quins team without him may seem strange at first, his influence on the group will, if anything, be even greater in his new role as first XV defence coach.”