RPA Chair Ethan Waller To Retire

RPA Chair and Northampton Saints prop Ethan Waller has announced that he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the 2023/24 campaign.

The 31-year-old has notched up 124 appearances so far across two spells with the men in Black, Green and Gold, scoring five tries along the way. He also amassed 118 appearances with Worcester Warriors during his five seasons at Sixways.

Waller has also been Chair of the RPA since 2021, playing a key role in representing the interests of hundreds of current male and female professional rugby players in England.

But after 14 seasons the loosehead believes now is the right time to hang up his boots, and Waller is hoping to sign off in style this season with Saints competing for silverware on two fronts.

“I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that I would have been a professional athlete, so I’m really proud to have called this a job for over a decade,” he said.

“I’ve made some of the very best friends and memories from my career; I’ll never forget that incredible game away at Leinster in 2013, winning the Premiership Rugby Cup with Worcester, all the European away trips, and socials with the teammates I get to call my friends.

“Rugby has given me everything I’ve ever wanted, and although I’m sad to call it a day, it’s the right time to do so. I moved back to Northampton for my family, and it feels fitting that the journey should end where it started.”

“I want to thank both Northampton Saints and Worcester Warriors – two incredible Clubs, with even better people behind the scenes. To get more than 100 caps for both teams is something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

“Thanks also to the RPA, who have been an incredible organisation to work with and are such an important asset to the game. Thank you for being a safety net for all players and to all my colleagues throughout that time.

“My teammates have made coming into work every day the best craic and made sure it’s never really felt like ‘work’. Fortunately for you, my rubbish chat and even worse music is hitting the road. Thank you boys, it’s been the most enjoyable period of my life and I’ll miss it dearly. Special mention too to Chris Kemp and Nathan Allwork – you two have kept me ticking and able to compete to the best of my ability. You’re two brilliant men who are fantastic at your jobs.

“My friends have been with me since the day I started playing at 12 years old. Always the friendly faces in the crowd and sending me countless messages of love and support. Even when I moved across the country, you were still there and that speaks volumes of you all as people. There are too many to name, but you know who you are. My family – Mum, Karl, Dad, Debbie – you’ve done so much to support me throughout every step of my journey, and I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. I hope I did you all proud.

“Alex, it’s been a privilege to share our careers. I’m glad I got just as much chance to play against you, as I did with you. You’ve got more records than a radio station and you’ve earned every one. It’s quite poetic we get to finish together, and I’m looking forward to latching you into the sunset, hopefully with some silverware in hand.

“Finally, I want to thank my partner Kate and my daughter Eliza, you’ve been rocks through the rollercoaster of the last few years. I wouldn’t have made it without you. No matter what’s happened on the field, seeing you both at the final whistle always brings me right back down to earth. Your support means the world to me.

“I remember sleeping on my brother’s floor back in 2010, anxious about what my future in rugby would hold. The time has flown by, and it’s been a damn good run – here’s hoping we can end this season on an all-time high with Saints.”

Waller came through Saints’ Academy system, making his debut in Black, Green and Gold in an Anglo-Welsh Cup match against Harlequins back in 2012.

He became a regular in the first-team squad during the Club’s historic double league and cup-winning campaign of 2013/14, making 15 Premiership appearances and winning Saints’ Young Player of the Season award.

In total, Waller made 95 appearances during his first stint with Northampton, becoming a supporter favourite around cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens thanks not only to his eye-catching performances, but also for helping to set-up numerous fundraising events for charity.

He departed for Sixways in 2017 in search of more game time, making over 100 appearances for Worcester, but returned to Northampton in the summer of 2022 and brought up a century of Saints caps in November of that year against Newcastle Falcons.

Northampton’s Director of Rugby, Phil Dowson, said: “Ethan was coming through the Academy while I was still playing here, and you could immediately tell he was a character, as well as a very skilful player with huge potential.

“He wasn’t getting enough game time back then, so moved to Worcester to further his career and improve as a player, but we were always keen to get him back to his home Club and playing for Saints again.

“Since he’s returned, he’s still had that incredible ability to be a real social connector for the whole group, while putting in some excellent performances when called upon. He’s bright with a cracking sense of humour, but his number one reason for being here is to play rugby.”

“He’s in with a very competitive group of loosehead props at the moment, and no doubt will have been frustrated at times not to get more minutes, but he wants to make the last part of his career an enjoyable one so will definitely be getting stuck in for the remainder of his time here.

“Ethan’s also got all the other stuff he does off the pitch which makes him such a special person; he’s raised loads of money for charity and done loads of work for the RPA – he loves the game and wants to support all the players, and you can’t say anything better than that for an RPA representative.

“We’ll wish him and his family all the best at the end of the season, but for now we hope we can send Ethan off into retirement on a high note.”