England forward Joe Worsley retires due to neck injury

Joe Worsley
Worsley realised he could not continue while training at a World Cup camp

Wasps and England back-row forward Joe Worsley has retired at the age of 34 due to a neck injury.

Worsley, who played over 300 times for Wasps, won 78 England caps and received an MBE after their 2003 World Cup win.

The former Barbarians and British and Irish Lions player said: "Last season I suffered an injury to my neck that has effectively ended my career.

"Re-starting contact work during the England World Cup camp made it obvious that I could not continue."

Worsley made his Test debut in the 1999 World Cup and, as well as being part of the 2003 victorious England squad, was a replacement in the 2007 final defeat by South Africa.

Speaking about his neck injury, he explained: "Since March I have been following medical and rehab advice but it hasn't helped."

After joining Wasps academy in 1993 as a 16-year-old, Worsley went on to have a decorated club career.

He said: "My life as a rugby player started at Welwyn under-nines 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."

England manager Martin Johnson captained Worsley in the national side and then went on to pick him. Johnson paid tribute, saying: "It's sad for Joe that he has had to retire because of injury.

"He was a great team-mate and always gave 100% for England and Wasps in winning every trophy available. On behalf of the England squad we wish him well and hope that he is just as successful after rugby."

Wasps owner Steve Hayes said: "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."

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."

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