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Moody quits England after World Cup exit

Updated: October 23, 2011, 14:37

LONDON(AP) Lewis Moody announced his retirement from international rugby on Sunday, ending a 10-year England career that finished on a disappointing note when he captained the team to a limp quarterfinal exit at the World Cup.

The 33-year-old flanker, who played all seven matches in England's World Cup-winning campaign in 2003, won 71 test caps - including five with the British & Irish Lions.

Moody became England captain for the first time in March 2010 and led the side in this year's World Cup in New Zealand, where the team produced its worst performance at the tournament since 1999 following a series of off-field controversies and poor displays on the pitch.

"My time with England has been unbelievable, even if the last few weeks have not gone so well,'' Moody wrote in his column in English newspaper The Mail on Sunday.

"It's only right for the team to move on. There will be changes, maybe in management and definitely in some of the matchday 22, and if England want to start planning for a successful World Cup here in four years' time, then it is my belief that they should be appointing a new captain from February to see the team right the way through to 2015.''

Nicknamed "Mad Dog'' for his penchant for putting his head where many other players wouldn't at rucks and restarts, Moody made his debut for England in a test against Canada in 2001.

He only established himself as a regular in the team after the World Cup-winning team was broken up, playing every match in England's run to the 2007 World Cup final in France, where it lost to South Africa in Paris.

Moody was often dogged by injury problems, brought on by his courageous - and often reckless - approach on the pitch.

"Lewis has been a great servant to English rugby and has literally put his body on the line more times than he can probably remember,'' England coach Martin Johnson said.

"To play in two World Cup finals and then lead his country in a third campaign is a great testament to him.''

Moody said a desire to spend more time with his family was a key reason behind his decision.

"I've loved every minute of my time with England but I have responsibilities to my family, more so now than ever with two boys I'd like to see a great deal more of,'' Moody said.

"The other factor is my body. I've had a lot of injuries and I'd like to play for at least a couple more years. My desire to play for England remains as strong as ever. I don't think that will ever die, but my body needs a bit of help now.''

Moody gave his backing to Johnson, whose position is under pressure in the wake of his team's poor displays at the World Cup.

England lost 19-12 to France in the last eight, one of a number of insipid performances in the tournament.

"I know Johnno as well as any player and he will be hurting like hell right now, but what happened in New Zealand is not his fault,'' said Moody, who played alongside Johnson for England and Leicester Tigers in the English Premiership.

"What happened in New Zealand was down to the players. We just didn't perform or, in some cases, behave. I know the players are gutted that Johnno is taking so much flak. Nobody wants him to go.''

Moody will continue playing club rugby for Bath, where he moved in the summer of 2010 after a trophy-laden, 14-year spell with Leicester.

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