Steve Thompson
Steve thompson.JPG
Birth nameSteve Geoffrey Thompson
Date of birth (1978-07-15) 15 July 1978 (age 44)
Place of birthHemel Hempstead, England
Height1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Weight118 kg (18 st 8 lb)[1]
SchoolNorthampton School for Boys
Rugby union career
Position(s) Hooker
Youth career
Northampton Old Scouts RFC
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
Northampton Saints
CA Brive
Leeds Carnegie
London Wasps
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
British & Irish Lions
Correct as of 13 November 2011

Steve Thompson MBE (formerly Steve Walter; born 15 July 1978) is a former rugby union player who played at hooker for Northampton Saints and England. He was once England's most capped hooker,[2] and played for the British & Irish Lions.

Club career

Northampton Saints

Formerly Steve Walter,[3] born 15 July 1978 in Hemel Hempstead, he started playing rugby at 15 at the Northampton School for Boys and Northampton Casuals rugby club, Steve went on to play for Northampton Old Scouts alongside Ben Cohen in a very successful[citation needed] youth team. He also trained with the youth section of Saints and, at 18, was selected for the apprentice scheme at the club's academy as a back row forward. Former Saints coach Ian McGeechan and coaches at the Northampton academy persuaded him to convert to being a hooker.[3] Despite competing against the Argentinian Federico Méndez in the 1999–2000 season for his club place, he still managed to force his way into the England A squad. Thompson continued to develop as a player and became co-captain of Northampton Saints. At Northampton he was a replacement in the victorious 2000 Heineken Cup Final as they defeated Munster.[4]

Retirement and return with Brive

On 15 April 2007 Thompson announced his immediate retirement from rugby due to a neck injury that he had suffered during the closing Heineken Cup pool match against Biarritz at Franklin's Gardens in January 2007.[5]

For the 2007/2008 season he signed for CA Brive as a "recruitment and technique adviser". But on 22 October 2007, Thompson announced he would be returning to the game after consulting medical staff.[6] He first played (and won) with Brive on 9 November 2007 in the European Challenge Cup against Connacht. Thompson represented the club in three Top 14 campaigns.

Back in the Premiership

On 31 May 2010 Thompson finally agreed a 2-year deal with Leeds Carnegie after a lot of speculation. This saw him join up with former International teammate Neil Back who was head coach at Leeds.[7] Leeds were relegated from the 2010–11 Aviva Premiership. On 1 May 2011 it was announced that he had signed a 3-year deal with London Wasps.[8] However, on 3 December 2011 Thompson announced his immediate retirement from the game, following a recurrence of a serious neck injury sustained in Wasps' training in late October, which required surgery to relieve symptoms of numbness and dizziness. Continuing to play would have been a serious health risk.[9]

International career

Thompson was selected for England's summer tour to North America in 2001, where he did well. He made his test debut for England in the 2002 Six Nations with a win against Scotland.[10] He scored his maiden test try against Italy in the 2003 Six Nations, a tournament which saw England win the Grand Slam.[11] Thompson made a significant contribution to England's southern hemisphere tour in June 2003, playing in both victorious tests against New Zealand[12] and Australia.[13]

He was a member of the England team that won the 2003 Rugby World Cup,[14] playing a part in all but one of England's World Cup performances in Australia. He scored his second test try in England's opening World Cup match against Georgia in Perth.

Thompson continued as an England regular in the Autumn games of 2004. He was selected for the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand;[15] on the tour he seemed to have regained some of his form after a poor 2005 Six Nations.

On 19 May 2009 Martin Johnson gave Thompson a surprise call up for England's summer games against The Barbarians and Argentina.[16] Thompson was recalled to the England squad for the 2009 autumn internationals along with 2003 world cup winners Jonny Wilkinson and Lewis Moody.

In the 2011 Six Nations he scored the only try for England in their match against Ireland on 19 March 2011, a tournament which saw England win the Six Nations, but were denied the Grand Slam and Triple Crown with defeat to Ireland in Dublin.[17] He also played in England's 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign, and was one of a minority of players whose reputation did not suffer.


Thompson has been based in Dubai and has acted as an ambassador for the Christina Noble Children's Foundation.[18] He has also been appointed as sports ambassador for security and facilities management services company Transguard,[19] and worked in the media as rugby analyst for OSN and ESPN (UK).[20]

Health and dementia

In December 2020, Thompson, aged 42, revealed that he had been diagnosed with early onset dementia with probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is caused by repeated blows to the head (CTE can only be confirmed by post-mortem dissection of the brain). He said that he has no memory at all of events such as winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup and sometimes forgets his wife's name. He has also said he would not play rugby again, and would not like his son to take up rugby "the way it is at the moment".[21]

Thompson and seven other players under 45 with a similar diagnosis were proposing to take legal action against World Rugby for failing to protect them.[21]

On 23rd of September 2021, Thompson decided to donate his brain for CTE research.[22]


  1. ^ "RFU Official Site of the RFU, Governing Body of Rugby Union in England". Rugby Football Union. Archived from the original on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  2. ^ "England v France: after some displeasure I will hail Steve Thompson for equalling my record, says Brian Moore". The Daily Telegraph. London. 24 February 2011. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  3. ^ a b "The Happy Hooker". The Guardian. 26 October 2003. Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  4. ^ "Saints secure historic victory". BBC. 27 May 2000. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  5. ^ "Injury forces Thompson to retire". BBC Sport. 15 April 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  6. ^ "Thompson set for surprise return". BBC Sport. 23 October 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  7. ^ "Leeds sign England hooker Steve Thompson from Brive". BBC Sport. 31 May 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  8. ^ "Wasps sign Steve Thompson on a three year deal | The Times".
  9. ^ "England hooker Steve Thompson retires again because of neck injury". BBC Sport. 3 December 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  10. ^ "Rampant England silence Scots". BBC Sport. 2 February 2002. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  11. ^ "Awesome England clinch Grand Slam". BBC Sport. 30 March 2003. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  12. ^ "England down All Blacks". BBC Sport. 14 June 2003. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  13. ^ "England clinch historic victory". BBC Sport. 21 June 2003. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  14. ^ "England win Rugby World Cup". BBC Sport. 22 November 2003. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  15. ^ "Lions Squad". BBC Sport. 11 April 2005. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  16. ^ "England omit Cipriani from squad". BBC Sport. 19 May 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  17. ^ Standley, James (19 March 2011). "2011 Six Nations: Ireland 24–8 England". BBC Sport. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  18. ^ "Dubai-based former England ace Steve Thompson tackles trip to Vietnam". 7 Days in Dubai. 25 November 2012. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Thompson made Transguard ambassador". Gulf News. 5 October 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  20. ^ "Steve Thompson". I Will Know Someone. Archived from the original on 15 January 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  21. ^ a b "Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson reveals he has dementia and joins landmark legal case". The Guardian. 8 December 2020.
  22. ^ "Thompson to donate brain for CTE research". BBC Sport. Retrieved 23 September 2021.