LONDON IRISH scrum-half Peter Richards has been forced to retire from the game with a back injury.
Richards, 32, was restricted to just 16 appearances in the Guinness Premiership this season – the last one coming in February.
“I’ve had a great career and thoroughly enjoyed my rugby wherever I’ve played,” Richards said.
“I would like to have continued on for another couple of seasons, unfortunately that is not going to be physically possible.
“I would like to thank all the players, coaches and management and supporters at all the clubs I’ve played with for their help, friendship and encouragement.”
Richards enjoyed two spells with the Exiles and also turned out for Gloucester, Wasps, Treviso, Bristol and Harlequins.
He made his international debut for England against Australia in 2006 and won 12 caps in total, playing in every match of the 2007 World Cup, including the final where he came on as a replacement.
l Meanwhile, England will tour South Africa in a three-Test series in 2012.
The announcement comes after the International Rugby Board introduced a directive to encourage longer end-of-season tours in the southern hemisphere.
South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins said: “Everyone in rugby has been yearning for a return to old-style tours and the IRB has delivered.”