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Phil Vickery has been forced to retire from rugby with immediate effect.

The former British and Irish Lions, England and Wasps prop is set to announce his decision at a press conference later today.

It is understood Vickery, a World Cup winner from 2003 and a former England captain, has been forced to follow medical advice after suffering another neck injury.

The 34-year-old had successfully come back from four major back and neck operations before - but this time he was warned the risk of serious injury was too great.

The news will have hit Vickery hard, the man nicknamed Raging Bull had been talking about forcing his way back into England's World Cup plans and extending his playing days by another year.

Vickery's final international appearance was for the Lions in their third Test victory over South Africa at Ellis Park in the summer of 2009.

His final game for Wasps, on September 25, was against Gloucester at Kingsholm, the club where he had spent 11 years after moving from Cornwall.

Vickery retires with 73 England caps and five Test appearances for the Lions, three of them against Australia in 2001 and two versus the Springboks in 2009.

Although he missed the 2003 Grand Slam campaign through injury, Vickery returned to play a key role in England's World Cup triumph in Australia.

Vickery featured in every game of the tournament, scoring his first Test try against Samoa and starting the final against the Wallabies in Sydney.

Another injury forced him to miss the 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand which led to a third back operation and ultimately his departure from Gloucester in 2006.

During his rehabilitation, Vickery painted the stark picture of a 19-stone international prop unable to hold his own baby.

Gloucester were not willing to risk offering Vickery anything more than a performance-related deal - but Wasps the medical team advised differently.

They were confident Vickery could return to his best - and they were proved right.

Within months, Vickery was back in action and he helped Wasps win the Heineken Cup in May 2007.

By that stage he was England captain, having been appointed as Martin Corry's successor by Brian Ashton. Under his leadership, England defied the odds and reached the 2007 World Cup final.

Vickery won a league title with Wasps the following season and then, in 2009, he was selected for his second Lions tour.

The first Test was a disaster for Vickery and he was hauled off after just 44 minutes as the Lions took a pounding from South Africa.

Vickery sat out the second Test but returned to bury his demons in emphatic fashion as the Lions won in Johannesburg. It was a fitting farewell to the international game.

Vickery spent most of last season sidelined after a neck operation but he was still determined to oust younger rivals Dan Cole, David Wilson and the returning Matt Stevens to make the 2011 World Cup.

Those ambitions have been wrecked but Vickery's love for rugby remains undimmed. He wants to stay in the game, maybe as a coach. Vickery he would be just as happy working with the Bude Under-15s as the Wasps first XV, though he wants to forge a lifelong connection with club who game him a second chance.

That could be ambassadorial to begin with, but Vickery rates the 2007 World Cup as one of the greatest experiences of his career and it would not have been possible without Wasps' faith.

(reopens) Vickery told Sky Sports News: "It's all been a whirlwind. It's disappointing but I'm looking forward to the future and am certainly very proud of what I've achieved.

"I can look back with a lot of fond memories but of course it's sad. I've been lying in bed at night thinking what to do and what's right - but think I've made the right decision and it's a decision I'm happy with.

"The more I look back and think about it the more I think what I've done is fantastic. I'm not finishing because I don't want it anymore. It's just enough's enough. I've got to accept that as a sportsman.

"I don't think anyone can question my desire or ability to want to play the game."

By Alex Lowe, Press Association Sport Rugby Union Reporter
Taken from