My England Retirement
I would like to take this opportunity to announce my retirement from International rugby.
To do so fills me with great sadness but I know that I have been blessed in so many ways to have experienced what I have with the England rugby team.
I never ever believed that I would be able to give up on this dream which has driven me to live, breathe, love and embrace the game of rugby from the earliest days that I can remember.
I certainly have no intention of letting this decision change the way that I approach my training and preparation for games. In fact early indication shows me that I'm actually getting more intense about it. Playing the game, representing the team, giving my all and never letting go has meant everything to me. I do, have done and always will believe that I am very capable of performing and thriving at any level of the sport.
The time has come, however, for me to realise that I have gone as far as I can go with this England team and that the time is right for others to enjoy the same honour and pride that I have felt over the past 15 seasons and beyond.I have far too many people to thank for what I have been able to achieve but as always, it starts with my Mum and Dad, my brother Mark, my girlfriend Shelley, Steve Black, Tim Buttimore and Dave Alred as well as the rest of my family and friends. I can never give enough credit to all my team mates from over the years and my physios, surgeons, doctors and coaches too who have unconditionally helped me through all kinds of thick and thin. Finally I would like to show my enormous appreciation and gratitude to all the true followers of the game who have given me way, way more time and support than it has ever been reasonable for one person to ask for. You will never truly understand the effect you have all had on me and my career.
To say I have played through four World Cups, two Lions tours, 91 international games and a ridiculous number of injuries and other set backs gives me an incredibly special feeling of fulfilment. But by now I know myself well enough to know that I will never truly be satisfied!
It goes without saying that I would like to wish Stuart Lancaster, his coaches and the England Squad every bit of success available to them. I would also very much like to extend those wishes to Martin Johnson, Brian Smith, Mike Ford, John Wells, Graham Rowntree and the rest of the England 2011 World cup management team who have been fantastic and deserve people to know that.
For me now, I will continue to focus ever harder on my goal of being the very best I can be with Toulon Rugby Club and continue to embrace and enjoy wherever that path takes me.
Thank you once again,