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World Cup-winner Worsley retires with neck injury

Updated: November 14, 2011, 08:13


LONDON(AP) With England's rugby team in the doldrums and officials debating how best to restructure its ruling body, the country's 2003 World Cup-winning side faded further from view Monday when backrower Joe Worsley retired with immediate effect.

The 34-year-old Worsley, a member of the 2003 squad, a replacement in the 2007 final and a British and Irish Lion in 2009, quit after failing to recover from a neck injury he sustained last season.

The injury kept Worsley out of this year's World Cup and the 34-year-old flanker said Monday he cannot continue either internationally or for club side London Wasps.

Worsley's retirement means that only seven members of the 30-man 2003 World Cup squad are still playing.

"Since March I have been following medical and rehab advice but it didn't help,'' Worsley said. "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.''

Although Worsley scored 10 tries in 78 appearances for England between 1999 and February 2011, he was mostly renowned for his full-blooded defensive game and ferocious tackle rate.

"As a former teammate, 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,'' Rugby Players Association chief executive Damian Hopley said. "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.''

Worsley played 11 straight internationals at No. 8 between June 2001 and June 2002, but otherwise lined up at flanker in almost all his England appearances.

Worsley played against South Africa, Samoa and Uruguay at the 2003 World Cup and was an unused replacement in the final win over Australia. Of that tournament squad, only Jonny Wilkinson, Mike Tindall, Lewis Moody, Steve Thompson, Simon Shaw, Julian White and Iain Balshaw are still playing.

Worsley spent his entire career with Wasps, playing more than 300 times for the club and winning almost every possible honor. He helped his team win the Heineken Cup twice, the English league four times and the English Cup three times, but made his only Lions' appearance in the 2009 final test win over South Africa.

"Joe is a real legend at this club,'' Wasps owner Steve Hayes said. "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.''

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