On your marks … injury victim Thom Evans to try for new career as sprinter

SCOTLAND rugby star Thom Evans is set to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Eric Liddell - by forging a new career in athletics.

• Thom Evans played ten times for Scotland Picture: SNS Group

The Glasgow Warriors winger formally announced his retirement from rugby last night, following the neck injury he suffered while playing for Scotland against Wales in last season's Six Nations Championship.

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Evans, whose brother Max was also playing in the game at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, suffered a slipped vertebra in his neck in a collision with Wales' Lee Byrne.

The Scotsman first reported in July that he would be unable to play rugby again.

But now the 25-year-old has recovered and is training with renowned sprinting coach Margot Wells.

Evans said rugby was still the best game in the world and he described his situation as very uncommon.

• Game changing sports stars

"When you're told you can't play the sport you love dearly, it comes as quite a shock," he said.

"But taking everything into account, I can still do pretty much anything. I just can't play a physical game such as rugby.

"I've been fortunate to have played six seasons at the top against some of the best players in the world. I'll have those memories for the rest of my life."

He added: "You can ask any rugby player who has had a freak accident and they will still tell you that rugby is the best game in the world.

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"Even though I can't play the game, I'll still be as enthusiastic off the pitch as I was on it."

Evans has been training with Margot Wells, who started her coaching career by helping husband Allan to win Olympic gold and silver in the 100m and 200m respectively in 1980.

Rated one of the fastest players of his generation, a second career in sprinting could see Evans try to mirror the success of "Flying Scotsman" Liddell. As well as playing rugby for Scotland and Edinburgh University, he won the men's 400m at the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

Coaches and supporters of Evans have paid tribute to his rugby talent and spoken of his prospects for the future.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Sean Lineen signed Evans from London Wasps in 2006, having seen him run in a hat-trick of tries against Scotland whilst representing England under-21s.

He said: "I remember getting Thom up here after he played for England U21 and firstly realising what a great guy he is. I also saw a steely edge and a real competitiveness to his game.

"What has happened is unfortunate, but it's now in the past. I know that whatever Thom does in the future, he will succeed.

"It's great we all had the chance to see Thom grace the rugby field and I am personally privileged to have coached him."

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Scotland head coach Andy Robinson said: "On behalf of the Scotland management and players, I want to wish Thom all the very best.Thom is a talented and resilient lad, and whatever challenges he decides to take on, he does so with our full backing and knowing that the rugby family will always be there to support and encourage him."

Scotland team doctor and Scottish Rugby's head of medical services Dr James Robson said: "While it is obviously poignant that Thom is retiring from the game, thanks to the skill and professionalism of all the medical professionals involved in Thom's treatment and rehabilitation - as well as his own strength in body and mind - he can now look forward to leading a full and healthy life."

Evans said he would continue to follow the progress of his brother Max, whom he played alongside during his two-year international career, during which he earned ten caps.