LEEDS, England -- Former Leeds Carnegie Captain and America's most-capped Eagle, Mike MacDonald, has confirmed the end of his international rugby career Monday, Feb. 17.
The prop won't be available for the USA in the upcoming international season. It will be the first time in 15 years that the loosehead has not played for the Eagles or at least been on the team's "unavailable due to injury" list.
"It's the right time to focus on the future," the 33-year-old MacDonald said. "I've been battling injuries for the last couple of seasons and it has limited my training and playing. I just got married, I'm settling back into the Bay Area with my beautiful wife, Mairin, and I'm looking at life beyond the rugby pitch."
MacDonald played in 67 tests for the USA and in three Rugby World Cups. At the 2011 RWC in New Zealand, MacDonald passed lock Luke Gross' mark of 62 test match appearances to become America's all-time most-capped player. At the same tournament, MacDonald also earned Man of the Match honours in the USA's victory over Russia.
More than a decade prior, MacDonald made his first appearance for the Eagles against Fiji, a match played in a heavily humid Samoa in 2000. "It's a bit of a blur," MacDonald said, "but I remember a very emotional national anthem and a big adrenaline rush when I got the call off the bench."
At the time of his first Eagles honors, MacDonald was an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, playing for longtime Cal head coach and former USA coach Jack Clark, who describes MacDonald's career as "unprecedented. 'Big Mac' is truly a singular figure in the history of American rugby. He's consistently demonstrated unwavering sportsmanship and loyalty to team and country. His retirement closes out a generation of our most distinguished internationals. We can only say thanks."
After finishing his collegiate run at Cal, MacDonald went on to establish a successful professional career, starting with the Worcester Warriors and then spent six seasons with Leeds Carnegie where highlights included captaining the side through the 2008-2009 season when the team won promotion to the Premiership.
The Berkeley-born MacDonald played much of his Eagles rugby under coach Tom Billups who said MacDonald used his athleticism to its fullest, "from crawling the last few meters to get over the tryline against the Springboks in Houston (2001) to what has to be the best overall test performance by an Eagle prop against Ireland on September 11th (RWC 2011). It will likely be some time before we see another American international like him.
"Much of Mike's early national team career was spent alongside some very special Eagles, including Dan Lyle, Dave Hodges, Kort Schubert, Paul Emerick and Alec Parker to name a few," Billups added. "I'm certain those men, along with hundreds of former collegiate, All-American, international and professional teammates, join me in saying, 'Well done, Mac, well done.'"
MacDonald also gave "massive" thanks to his teammates as well as coaches from Cal, the Eagles and the UK: "I learned from some of the best. But most of all, the biggest thanks go to my family and friends. Their unwavering support from start to finish has been the biggest part of my success."
After calling time on a playing career in which he learned the craft of front-row play, MacDonald is now learning the craft of coaching, serving as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Cal.