Leicester’s former British and Irish Lions forward Tom Croft has been forced to retire on medical grounds.
The 32-year-old, who graduated from the club’s academy, made 173 appearances and won four Premiership titles, scoring 27 tries.
“I’ve played professional rugby at Leicester for 12 years and in that time I’ve enjoyed every second of it,” said Croft, who sustained a serious neck injury in 2012 which sidelined him for eight months.
“I’ve played alongside and against some incredible players and made many lifelong friends in the game. Unfortunately, I have also suffered some reasonably significant injuries and now, after seeking advice on a neck injury, I have to announce my retirement as a player.”
Croft, who made his senior debut a week after his 20th birthday in 2005, added: “Leaving the game has been a massive decision for me, it is all I’ve known since leaving school. But with the issues I’ve had fitness-wise over the last few years and with my wife and two young kids at home it’s the right time to hang the boots up and move on to the next chapter.”
Croft won 40 caps for England and played in five Tests during two tours with the Lions, memorably scoring two tries on his Test debut for them in South Africa in 2009.
“There are so many big games to look back on but making my debut for Tigers against Gloucester in 2005, gaining my first England cap and wearing the Lions shirt on two tours are up there with my best memories of the game,” he said.
Leicester chief executive Simon Cohen, formerly the club’s head of rugby operations, paid tribute to the player.
“Crofty displayed a unique talent as one of the quickest forwards in the game,” he said.
“His impact when he first came into senior rugby, then when he got into the England team and in his debut tour for the Lions in 2009 said everything about an exceptional talent.
“He also showed his strength of will and determination in returning from a serious injury to play again at the highest level and deserves his place among the very best produced by the Tigers in its long history.”
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