Retiring legends of the international arena

Rugby World Cup 2019 was the last hurrah for a host of international rugby greats. Here we highlight the players who have officially called time on their test careers.

Quitting international rugby is not a decision taken lightly, but for several of test rugby’s leading lights, Japan 2019 was the last time they will represent their country.

The chance to go out in glory was seized by some while, for others, a fairytale ending escaped them.

We run through the players who have decided to open a new chapter following the conclusion of the record-breaking tournament.

Post-RWC 2019 retirees


Juan Manuel Leguizamon (2005-19), 87 caps. Age: 36

The back-row was the last member of the Argentina team who won the bronze medal at Rugby World Cup 2007 to stand down from the test arena. He competed at four Rugby World Cups.

Juan Figallo (2010-19), 33 caps. Age: 31

Los Pumas’ leading tight-head for the last decade appeared in three Rugby World Cups and would have almost certainly have doubled his tally of caps had it not been for a highly successful period overseas with Montpellier and Saracens.


Will Genia (2009-19), 110 caps. Age: 31

An invaluable servant to Australian rugby, Genia became just the 10th Wallaby test centurion when he ran out against England at Twickenham in 2018, and only the second-ever Australian scrum-half after George Gregan to earn the honour. 

Sekope Kepu (2008-19), 110 caps. Age: 33

The loose-head holds the Australian record as the most experienced prop, boasting more than 100 caps and playing in three Rugby World Cups.

David Pocock (2008-19), 83 caps. Age: 31

A brilliant breakdown operator who would have surely reached three figures for test appearances had it not been injuries.


DTH van der Merwe (2006-19), 61 caps. Age: 33

Canada’s record try-scorer with 38 tries – six of them across four Rugby World Cups. Finally fulfilled a dream of playing against South Africa, the country of his birth, in Kobe City in October.


Guilhem Guirado (2008-19), 74 caps. Age: 33

The hooker replaced Thierry Dusautoir as Les Bleus’ captain in January 2016 and led them in Japan, his third Rugby World Cup.

Louis Picamoles (2008-19), 82 caps. Age: 33

France’s most-capped number eight appeared at his third Rugby World Cup in Japan. A formidable ball carrier.

Sébastien Vahaamahina (2012-19), 46 caps. Age: 28

Not the best of endings for the abrasive second-row who announced his retirement the day after his Rugby World Cup red card against Wales.


Mamuka Gorgodze (2003-19), 75 caps. Age: 35

Arguably Georgia’s greatest-ever rugby player initially retired in 2017 before returning to the fold to help the Lelos in their hour of need at RWC 2019 following a back-row injury crisis.


Rory Best (2005-19), 124 caps. Age: 37

Yet another quarter-final exit provided an unhappy ending to an Ireland career that brought more highs than lows, with the historic win over New Zealand and two Grand Slams the captain’s standout achievements. Under him, Ireland also reached number one in the World Rugby Men's Rankings for the first time.


Kenki Fukuoka (2013-19), 38 caps. Age; 27

At 27, Kenki Fukuoka still had plenty of good years ahead of him but the diminutive winger has called it a day to continue the family tradition of working in the medical profession. Scored 25 tries in his 38 tests.


Ryan Crotty (2013-19), 48 caps. Age: 31

One of the mainstays of the All Blacks midfield and a classy all-round footballer. A key asset to the All Blacks and Crusaders.

Kieran Read (2008-19), 127 caps. Age: 34

Departing All Blacks captain Read heads off with 127 test caps to his name, placing him third on the all-time appearance list behind Richie McCaw on 148 and Keven Mealamu with 132.

Ben Smith (2009-19), 84 caps. Age: 33

Only Mils Muliaina played more tests as a back-three player than Smith, whose outstanding counter-attacking ability earned him a reputation as the best full-back to grace world rugby in the last decade.

Sonny Bill Williams (2010-19), 58 caps. Age: 34

Revolutionised midfield play with his ability to offload out of the tackle. Another cross-code move, this time to Toronto Wolfpack, signals an end to a memorable dual international career.


Igor Galinovskiy (2006-19), 50 caps. Age: 34

Probably the world's most successful player born in Azerbaijan! Galinovskiy played a huge role in Russia qualifying for RWC 2011 only to miss out on the tournament itself with a fractured fibula. He made it into the squad for Japan 2019, though, where he finally got the chance to play on the game’s biggest stage, earning his 50th and final cap against Ireland.


John Barclay (2007-19), 76 caps. Age: 33

Captained the side in his farewell performance against Russia at his third Rugby World Cup in Japan. An outstanding and versatile back-row.

Greig Laidlaw (2010-19), 76 caps. Age: 34

Scorer of 714 points and a saviour for Scotland time and time again with his prowess from the kicking tee and his leadership in the heat of battle.

Tommy Seymour (2013-19), 55 caps. Age: 31

Seymour, who has spent most of his career on the wing, is Scotland's fourth-top try scorer, crossing the line 20 times in a six-year spell during which he has been at two World Cups.


Schalk Brits (2008-19), 15 caps. Age: 38

Retired from test rugby for the second time in two years, and insists this time it’s for good. Became the second-oldest try scorer in Rugby World Cup history after touching down against Namibia, at the grand old age of 38.

Tendai Mtawarira (2008-19), 117 caps. Age: 34

Known throughout the rugby world as “The Beast” for his bullocking runs, Mtawarira starts a new adventure in Major League Rugby. Sits behind Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana as the third-most capped Springbok.


Siale Piutau (2011-19), 43 caps. Age: 34

Tonga’s captain signed off in style at RWC 2019, scoring a try in a man-of-the-match performance as Tonga beat the USA – on his 34th birthday.

Sione Kalamafoni (2007-19), 37 caps. Age: 31

Back-row warrior who played in three Rugby World Cups, making 12 tournament appearances – a record he shares with Piutau.


John Quill (2012-19), 37 caps. Age: 29

A veteran of two Rugby World Cups, the no-nonsense flanker says farewell to the test arena at the tender age of 29. Like France second-row Vahaamahina, he was sent off in his final game against England.