Injury forces Simon Danielli to call time on his rugby career
INTERNATIONAL winger Simon Danielli has been forced to retire from rugby after medics advised him that a long-term back problem would not heal sufficiently for him to return to the heights he achieved with Ulster and Scotland.
The 32-year-old won 32 Test caps, the last against England in the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, where he continued his knack for scoring tournament tries with two crucial touchdowns that clinched victory late in the opening match against Romania.
However, he has played through the pain barrier in recent seasons and this year a debilitating back problem ruled him out of contention through the second half of the season. In a statement issued by Ulster yesterday, he said: “Having been advised that I am no longer able to achieve the level of fitness required to play professional rugby, it is with great sadness that I announce my retirement from the game. I feel privileged to have been playing for over a decade and have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a professional rugby player, particularly my last five years here at Ulster.”
Danielli was a full-back at Cheltenham College and played for English Schools, scoring a try in against Scottish Schools in Glasgow, and went on to play for England at under-21 level and England Students while studying at Oxford University. However, he was born in Edinburgh while his father worked in the north, and was aware of the fact that his grandmother had also been born in the Scottish capital, and so was keen to pursue the Exiles route to Scottish honours.
It was while he was playing for Bath in 2003 that Scotland coach Ian McGeechan called him into the senior Scotland set-up and he made an instant mark with four tries in his first three Test matches, against Italy, Japan and the USA. He was a regular starter under Matt Williams and crossed the try-line in his Murrayfield Six Nations debut against England in 2004, before injury began to interrupt his burgeoning career.
He moved from Bath to the Border Reivers in a bid to improve his Scotland prospects, and a clutch of tries for Scotland A in 2006-7 brought him back into favour. But when the Borders club was disbanded in 2007, Ulster moved in for Danielli and he struggled for game-time under Frank Hadden. He returned to the side in 2009 and enjoyed his last 12 Test appearances under Andy Robinson.
He scored 26 tries in 78 appearances for Ulster, and though he struggled to be seen as a first-choice for Scotland, the 6ft 4in, 16-stone winger still played in each of the last four years as coaches kept turning back to him for some back-line power.
This season he has watched Lee Jones, Max Evans and the soon-to-be-Scottish Tim Visser emerge as new and potential new wings for Scotland, while Andrew Trimble, and youngsters Craig Gilroy and Conor Gasten grip the Ulster jerseys as part of a promising new era of success at Ravenhill. The time is now right, he believes, to take the medical advice and step down.
Speaking on the Ulster website, he added: “I would like to thank everyone who has helped me throughout my time, to all the players, coaches, other members of staff and not least the fantastic supporters at Ulster that rival anywhere else in Europe, creating an atmosphere that has given me many special lifelong memories.”
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