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Sky Sports- Neck injury forces former England skipper

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Wasps announced on Thursday that former England captain Phil Vickery has been forced to retire from rugby with immediate effect.

The 34-year-old prop, who was part of England's World Cup-winning side in 2003, has called time on his career following medical advice he received after suffering another neck injury.

He had previously overcome four major back and neck operations but was warned that the risk of serious injury would be too great this time.

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."

He added: "I'm not afraid of fighting back or proving people wrong but there comes a stage when you have to listen and trust in the experts and it is based on medical reasons that I have been forced to retire."

Achievement

Vickery, nicknamed Raging Bull, had been talking about forcing his way back into England's World Cup plans and playing on for another year.

His final international appearance was for the British and Irish Lions in their third Test victory over South Africa at Ellis Park in the summer of 2009.

Vickery has, however, been in severe pain since damaging his neck while playing for Wasps against Gloucester - where he spent 11 years playing after moving from his home county of Cornwall - on September 25.

His 15-year career ends with a total of 73 England caps and five Test appearances for the Lions, three of them against Australia in 2001 and two in South Africa last year.

The crowning achievement, however, was England's World Cup triumph in Australia, which came after injury forced him to miss the 2003 Grand Slam campaign.

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.

The Cherry and Whites would not offer more than a performance-related deal but Wasps' medical team offered a more positive prognosis.

They were proved spectacularly right as Vickery returned to his best and gave some of the finest performances of his career.

Within months, he had helped Wasps win the Heineken Cup in May 2007 and by that stage had been appointed as Martin Corry's successor as England captain under Brian Ashton.

Despite a poor start to their World Cup defence, England defied the odds and under his leadership reached the 2007 final before losing to South Africa.

Vickery won a league title with Wasps the following season before being selected for his second Lions tour in 2009.

Up against South African prop Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira in the first Test, however, Vickery struggled and he was hauled off after just 44 minutes.

Emphatic

He sat out the second Test but returned in emphatic fashion as the Lions won in Johannesburg. It was to prove Vickery's farewell to the international game.

He spent most of last season sidelined after a neck operation but 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 with his playing career now over, Vickery wants to stay in the game.

Either a coaching or ambassadorial role at Wasps appear the most likely choices, with Vickery keen on continuing his connection with the club who gave him a second chance.

Paying tribute to his former team-mate, England manager Martin Johnson said: "Phil is a great bloke and epitomised the team-mate who you always wanted to play a game of rugby with."

http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,12551_6472522,00.html