30 November 2005
Alex Sanderson will take up a coaching role at Saracens after deciding to quit professional rugby due to injury.
The 26-year-old back row forward has missed much of last two seasons through injury and although he returned to action to make six appearances at the start of the current campaign, on medical advice he's taken the decision to retire because of a long-term back injury.
Now Sanderson will join the Saracens coaching staff, concentrating on contact skills and working with the squad on other areas of the game such as rucking and mauling.
He said: "It's a massive disappointment. But this is something which has been with me for the last 20 months so I always knew that the end was around the corner, I'd just hoped it wasn't going to be so soon. It's a chronic problem that isn't going to get better, but when you have to make the decision, it still comes as a shock."
In his new role as Assistant Coach, Sanderson will work alongside Director of Rugby Steve Diamond and Head Coach Mike Ford.
Diamond said: "It's very disappointing news that Alex has been forced to retire. It's always sad when a player is struck down with a chronic injury in the prime of his career. It's one of those things that can happen and Alex is now getting on with his life and an opportunity has arisen for him to work alongside myself and Mike Ford. I've known Alex since he was 15 and the value he can bring to an organisation, but for the loss of the player that he was, we've gained an asset in another area."
Although working his way back to full fitness for the start of the current season, it was when the week-in week-out action of the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP started that Sanderson's injury problems resurfaced.
He said: "I was feeling good at the start of the season but when the matches started with the heavier contact work, I started to feel it again. It was taking longer to recover after matches to the point where I was just in pain all the time," he explained. "The problem is I have seven prolapsed discs in my back. Four of them have been operated on, but it's just too many for me to carry on playing.
"I don't mind being sore after matches and getting injuries - that's something you expect as a professional rugby player. But it's when it starts to affect everything you do that you start to look at things.
"There is no short-term solution and the longer I play the more chance there is of causing permanent damage that will affect me in later life and even now I realise that I will still have to have more surgery at some point."
But now he's concentrating on his new role as a coach.
"It's fantastic and I'd like to thanks the club for giving me the opportunity," he added. "I'm not going to sit around and feel sorry for myself and I'm really looking forward to the new role. I'll be working on contact skills, the tackle and ruck area and just trying to pass on what I've learned to the rest of the squad.
"You've got the take the positives out of all the disappointments you suffer in life. It's often when you learn the most about yourself. The decision to retire has been taken out of my hands and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to continue to work at Saracens and develop my coaching skills."
England Head Coach, Andy Robinson OBE, today commented "On behalf of the England squad I was very sorry to hear that Alex has decided to retire from playing professional rugby. But for injury I'm sure he would have received more caps for England and I'd like to wish him every success in his coaching role at Saracens."