After 17 years, Harlequins prop Mark Lambert has announced his retirement from rugby
Lambert, who made his 250th Harlequins appearance earlier this season during the Club’s home victory over league leaders Exeter Chiefs, will continue his role as Chairman of the Rugby Players Association (RPA) and as an ambassador for the Harlequins Foundation.
The longest-serving Harlequin in the professional era, proud owner of the 15th longest Premiership Rugby career to date and the record holder for Premiership Cup appearances, Lambert joined Harlequins ahead of the 2004/05 Premiership season, going on to win silverware on three successive seasons with the Club, lifting the 2010/11 Amlin Challenge Cup, 2011/12 Aviva Premiership and 2012/13 LV Cup trophies.
The twice Club centurion was capped by England at U19 and U21 level before going on to play for the England Saxons side during the 2009 Churchill Cup.
On confirmation of his retirement from rugby, Lambert said: “I played my first game in a Quins shirt in 2002. I've had a picture of that moment on my wall for years. I have never been more nervous in my life than I was before my starting debut against Gloucester in 2004. I have never felt worse in my life than the day I was told my career was over in 2005. That is what playing for this club has meant to me.
"I have been on borrowed time in the game since I was 20. I have made it to 35. What facing retirement at a young age gave me was an appreciation that this had to end one day. As a result, I have done my best to make the most of the experiences that have come my way.
"I’ve worn the shirt hundreds of times and every time, even the games on a Monday night that I didn’t want to play, when I pulled it on I looked at the badge and realised it was a privilege.
"I want to thank the supporters of Quins. You have always been passionate, kind, and friendly to me. I hope I have been the same in return. I want to thank my friends and family for all your love and support. My wonderful wife, children, sister, and aunt of course, but mainly my mum and dad. You have been on every step of this journey with me and I will forever be grateful for that.
"Finally, I want to thank my teammates over the years. They are the reason I’ve played for so long. I have a lifetime of memories on and off the field.
"There is something incredibly special about the shared experiences rugby gives you. It’s nice to win, but really, it’s all about those shared moments. Cherish that and the results will come. I have been living that for 17 years. I am a lucky man but I am really going to miss it.
"If anyone wants a reminisce come and find me at the bar. Thanks, everyone."
Commenting on Lambert’s retirement, Harlequins Head of Rugby Paul Gustard said: “On behalf of all the support staff at the Club we would all like to thank Lamby for his immense contribution to the Quarters over the last 17 years. He has been a true club man who has given his all on and off the field. His presence will leave a hole in the group that will leave not only an emotional space to be filled, but also quite a sizeable physical one! I am delighted he managed to get to that magical 250 appearances, which puts him in a group of very special players at this great club.
“For such a big man he had a big engine and probably an underrated ball-playing ability. He was a bright and articulate player who understood the game innately and contributed to debate and discussion on any aspect of the game, not solely his specialist area up front.
“I think he can rightly look back on his career with great fondness and memories and be proud of what he achieved.
“I would like to thank Lamby and wish his ever-increasing family the very best in the future. We look forward to welcoming him back to The Stoop in a more social capacity. Good luck, big man!”
Off the pitch, Lambert is an ambassador for both the Harlequins Foundation and Future Hope and was named Community Player of the Season at the end of the 2017/18 Premiership Rugby Awards.
Through Future Hope, a charitable organisation that provides opportunities through its homes, school, sport and medical programme for some of the most vulnerable children in the streets and slums of Kolkata, India, Lambert has flown out East on multiple occasions over the years alongside fellow Harlequins.
Commenting on his long-time teammate’s retirement, Club captain Chris Robshaw said: “For me, there has been no better team man in the Club’s history. A man who cares about everyone in the Club and is willing to help them improve as both a person and player. European away trips will not be the same without him, I am sure. Take care, Chairman.”
Harlequins prop Will Collier said: “I cannot speak highly enough of Lambo. He has given absolutely everything to Harlequins over the years facing countless hurdles along the way. He’s always kept his head down and cracked on showing his resilience time and time again, something I’ve always admired and looked up to.
“Players like him are hard to find and don’t come around very often. He really is one of a kind and will be sorely missed amongst the lads.”
“There’s a reason Lamby has been named the unsung hero at the awards evening the last nine years in a row,” added fellow Harlequins front row, Joe Marler. “I can only share my personal experiences with him, which is that he’s gone from not talking to me for the first five years of my time at the Club, to being one of my closest friends in the game.
“For such a large man, his fitness levels were through the roof, his skills for a prop were unbelievable.
“You can often tell the measure of a man by how many friends, how many people, how many teammates, can actually turn around and say ‘he’s a great bloke, he’s a good bloke, he’s someone that I was to keep in touch with way after he’s retired.’
“It’s so cheesy, but he is the epitome of Harlequins.”