Joe Worsley has confirmed his immediate retirement from rugby, due to a neck injury.
The 34-year-old England and London Wasps flanker won 78 caps for his country, while also making over 300 appearances for the Aviva Premiership club whose academy he joined when he was just 16.
The player, who has also featured for the British and Irish Lions and the Barbarians, had been unable to train in recent months due to the injury and has now conceded defeat. He was unable to regain fitness in time to play in the most recent World Cup in New Zealand, and has brought the curtain down on a career that saw him earn a World Cup winner’s medal with his country in 2003 and obtain legendary status with the Adams Park club.
As well as his World Cup win, Worsley also lifted many trophies for his club side, playing his part as Wasps lifted the Heineken Cup twice, the Premiership four times and the Powergen Cup on three occasions in his days in their back row.
“Last season I suffered an injury to my neck that has effectively ended my career,” the now ex-player said on the Wasps website on Monday.
“Since March I have been following medical and rehab advice but it didn't help, and restarting contact work during the England World Cup camp made it obvious that I could not continue.
“My life as a rugby player started at Welwyn under 9s and finished in an England training session - I want to say thanks to everyone who helped me on that path. I'm proud of what I achieved and how I played the game.”
Wasps owner Steve Hayes paid tribute to the departing flanker, commenting: “Joe is a real legend at this club and we are all very sad to see his playing days come to an end. He has been a fantastic servant to Wasps and played a huge role in much of the club’s success.
“He also was a superb representative on the international stage, becoming a key figure for England and inspiring many budding young players with his tenacious back-row play.
“He will leave big boots to fill and we wish him all the very best as he moves on with the next stage of his life. I hope that we will still see him regularly around Adams Park and he knows he is welcome back here anytime.”
Damian Hopley, CEO of the Rugby Players Association, said: “It is such sad news when any player has to retire prematurely and I am very sorry to learn that Joe’s injury has meant his playing days have ended.
“As a former team mate, we always sensed that Joe had all the necessary attributes and humility to become an outstanding international player and he played a leading role in both Wasps and England successes over the years. Joe was a fantastic professional and leaves behind tremendous memories of an exceptional career which saw him lift every major trophy in English, European and international rugby.
“On behalf of all The RPA members, I would like to wish Joe and his family every success for his life after rugby and we will be there to support Joe throughout that transition.”