England lost another of Sir Clive Woodward’s World Cup-winning heroes today after one heavy collision too many in the line of duty.
Wasps announced Phil Vickery’s retirement from all rugby with immediate effect after the mighty Cornish prop received firm medical advice that it was time to call it a day.
The Raging Bull has been sidelined with shingles over the last month but it is thought
that the decisive blow came in the Aviva Premiership match against his former club, Gloucester, at Kingsholm on September 24.
The 34-year-old — who had just returned from an ankle injury to captain his club — was concussed and has been out of action since.
Now, he has reluctantly conceded that it is time to bring down the curtain on a glittering professional career spanning 15 years, three World Cups and two Lions tours.
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.'
In his time, Vickery has made a habit of taking various knocks and repeatedly coming back for more.
As a tighthead at the sharp end of the scrummaging contest, he was repeatedly plagued by neck and shoulder injuries, leading to multiple operations and long spells out of the game.
There were plenty of times when he couldn’t sleep, couldn’t walk properly, couldn’t lift up his children.
There were plenty of times in previous years when he wondered if he would play again. But Vickery kept fighting back to fitness.
A proud patriot, he played 73 Tests for England over an 11-year period and that tally would have been much higher had injuries not intervened.
He had the distinction of playing every match in the 2003 World Cup, which culminated in that heart-stopping 20-17 victory over Australia in the final.
Four years later, Vickery was the captain who led his team back from a 36-0 pool-stage drubbing at the hands of South Africa and all the way to the final, where they were narrowly beaten by the same opponents. His last appearance for England came on March 21 last year in a victory over Scotland at Twickenham.
He was deeply passionate about the Lions and experienced various highs and lows in the famous red shirt on tours of Australia in 2001, and South Africa last year.
On his first trip he was the starting tighthead in all three Tests against the Wallabies, as Graham Henry’s team let slip a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1.
In 2009, Vickery was thrust into the spotlight in unfortunate circumstances when he endured a torrid outing against Springbok loosehead Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira in the first Test in Durban. The rookie in the home side dominated his veteran opponent, who was withdrawn in the second half to lick his wounds.
However, the mark of the man was the way he responded — with typical defiance. After missing the second Test in Pretoria, Vickery was recalled in place of the injured Adam Jones and he came good by turning the tables on the Beast in emphatic fashion. The Lions won and their No 3 enjoyed his own personal redemption.
At club level, he enjoyed 11 seasons as the Shed’s favourite son at Gloucester and after establishing cult status in the West Country, he moved to Wasps in 2006.
The following season he enjoyed a career high by playing his part in a Heineken Cup triumph and that was followed by a Premiership title in 2008
So Vickery is destined to say his farewell as a player with all the major medals in his possession and a host of fond memories.
He may go back to his roots with a life on the farm, rearing livestock, and concentrate on developing his clothing range and selling his book.
But there is every chance rugby will lure him back again one day.