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Steve Thompson forced to retire

03 December 2011

  • Steve Thompson forced to retire from rugby with new neck injury
  • England’s most capped hooker can look back on glittering career

England and London Wasps hooker Steve Thompson at Rugby World Cup 2011

Photo: Getty Images

England’s most capped hooker Steve Thompson has been forced to retire from the game after suffering a new neck injury.

The 33-year-old sustained the injury training with his new club London Wasps in October and aggravated it in his only appearance against Worcester at the end of that month.

Surgery is now required and the nature of the injury means it would be unsafe for the 2003 Rugby World Cup winner to train or play again and so sadly, he has announced his full retirement from rugby.

Thompson arrived at Wasps having been an ever-present for England at the World Cup, starting the quarter final with France, and he had already made a positive impact with his new club, where he was expected to play a key role over the next three seasons.

He said: “It is with great sadness that I have been forced to retire from both club and international rugby due to a new injury to my neck. I have enjoyed a fantastic rugby career and have been lucky enough to represent both England and the British and Irish Lions, working alongside some of the best players and coaches in the game. This has not been a decision which I have made but a decision which is forced upon me given the severity of the injury.

"I would like to thank London Wasps who have been hugely supportive and a particular mention must go to the medical team who have worked closely with me since sustaining the injury. Playing rugby is much more than a job and there are so many people who have made my career so enjoyable.

“Nothing has given me more pride than representing my country and I would also like to thank Martin Johnson for his support over the years as both a team mate and as a coach. It will be very tough to watch from the sidelines but I wish the England boys the very best of luck at the up and coming Six Nations.”

England hooker Steve Thompson practises his line out throwing with colleague Dylan Hartley

Photo: Getty Images

Thompson initially retired four years ago after sustaining a separate neck injury in a Heineken Cup match against Biarritz four years ago but after taking a coaching role at Brive and receiving further medical advice resumed playing for the French side.

But he returned to the highest level and retires having played 73 times for England and having represented the Lions in 2005.  He made his international debut in 2002, and a year later was part of England’s World Cup winning team in Australia.  In March, 2011 he became England’s most capped hooker, surpassing Brian Moore.

He spent ten seasons with Northampton and also had stints with Brive and Leeds Carnegie. 

Martin Johnson, who captained Thompson to glory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, said: “That Steve retired and then came back to get himself fit and in form to compete in a World Cup shows what a great player and character he is. I know he was really looking forward to a new start at Wasps and for him to have to retire early like this is sad. But we should celebrate what he has done in the game and wish him well for the future."

Damian Hopley, CEO of the Rugby Players Association, said: "Steve has been one of the great personalities in English rugby over the past decade, and it is a huge blow that he has had to retire prematurely, especially after the incredible amount of hard work and character he showed in coming back from a seeming career ending injury to play at the highest level.

“Given Steve's popularity, humility and determination I have no doubt that he will go on to be extremely successful, be that in or out of rugby. On behalf of all the RPA members, I would like to wish Steve every success for the next exciting chapter of his life.”