A HERO’S FAREWELL

FORMER England captain Phil Vickery yesterday reluctantly accepted defeat in his long battle with neck and back injuries, admitting: “enough is enough”.

The World Cup winner brought down the curtain on a distinguished career after being advised his body had taken enough punishment in 15 years as a professional.

Wasps skipper Vickery, 34, came back from four operations but has been in severe pain since damaging his neck for the latest time against former club Gloucester last month.

“There are so many emotions,” said the former Lion. “It’s all been very whirlwind. 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 can look back with a lot of fond memories but of course it’s sad. I’m not finishing because I don’t want it anymore. It’s just enough is enough.”

He added: “It’s not a nice feeling and ultimately I’m a sportsman so in my head it feels like admitting defeat.”

Vickery’s disappointment is all the more acute as he had been in talks with Wasps about a new contract and harboured hopes of adding to his 73 England caps at next year’s World Cup.

That tournament holds two of Vickery’s best rugby-playing memories, the 2003 triumph in Australia, and the tournament in France four years later, where Vickery captained England to defeat in the final.

His career started in 1995 at Gloucester, where he stayed until a third round of back surgery precipitated his departure to Wasps, who were prepared to offer him a longer contract.

Vickery reaped the rewards of the move, winning the Heineken Cup in 2007, the Premiership the following season and earning the captaincy.

The Devon-born tight-head twice toured with the Lions, in 2001 to Australia and in 2009 to South Africa, winning five caps.

England manager Martin Johnson, who played alongside Vickery at the 2003 World Cup, said: “Phil is a great bloke and epitomised the team-mate who you always wanted to play a game of rugby with.”

Wasps director of rugby Tony Hanks called Vickery “one of the greats of his generation”, adding that the club would seek to retain him in an off-field role.