Six Nations: Latest injury one too many as Lewis Moody has to call it a day

LEWIS Moody will not stop throwing himself into harm’s way just because he has been forced to retire from rugby with a shoulder injury.

Nicknamed “Mad Dog” for his fearless approach to the game, Moody must begin the tough process of finding something to fill the void now his glittering 16-year rugby career is over.

“The reason I played the game was to give everything I could to the team and my mates around me,” said Moody. “One of the most difficult things will be to replace that sense of doing something for a common goal and being able to give as much as you can of yourself to the team around you. I will find something (to fill the void). No doubt I will have to set myself some hideous physical challenge at some point.”

Moody will be remembered for his extraordinary commitment and willingness to hurl himself into the line of fire with scant regard for his own safety. Inevitably, that approach led to Moody suffering a catalogue of injuries. Over-exposure to anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and painkillers contributed to him being diagnosed with colitis in 2005. Every time Moody battled his way back to fitness – but the shoulder injury he suffered against Worcester on November 25, his only Premiership appearance of the season, was the final straw.

The 33-year-old retires as a former England captain and British and Irish Lion, having won every honour in the domestic, European and international game. “As a sportsman you never really prepare yourself for when it will come to an end,” said Moody, who won 71 caps for his country. I had a year or so left on my contract at Bath and I was lined up to play for the Barbarians in the summer.

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“It has been very difficult but ultimately my body has told me it was time and one injury too many to come back from. My body would not let me go out there and play a contact sport. Realising you won’t play this game again is very sad.”

Moody made his Leicester debut while still at Oakham School and he went on to play 14 seasons for the Tigers, winning seven Premiership titles and two Heineken Cups. A tearaway loose forward, Moody made his international debut in 2001 and went on to feature in all seven of England’s games in their triumphant 2003 World Cup campaign. It was Moody’s take at the back of the lineout that set the platform for Jonny Wilkinson to slot the match-winning drop goal in the final.

Moody represented the Lions in 2005, helped England reach the 2007 World Cup final and then captained his country into last year’s tournament. Ultimately it proved a disappointing experience as England bowed out in the quarter-finals after a campaign dogged by controversy. Moody blamed himself for some of it. But that should not overshadow the contribution, through blood, sweat and tears, that Moody gave to the game over the course of his career.

“There have been so many moments in my career that I have been lucky to experience,” Moody said. “From the period of success at Leicester and all the trophies we won, my first cap for England, the Lions tour in 2005, the World Cup in 2003 and then in 2007, reaching back-to-back finals.

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“I seem to have been very lucky in my career to have been involved in some fantastic sides with some quality individuals that may not have been the most talented but were the most stubborn and committed and prepared to put it all on the line.

“That was my mindset – you put everything on the line for the team to be successful, whether that was on or off the pitch. You would have to sacrifice family events but when you have successful days on the field it makes it all worth it.

“I reflect with a smile on my face of all the great moments in my career that I have been incredibly lucky to experience. I have a love affair with rugby that won’t end. I will stay involved in one way or another.”

Martin Johnson, Moody’s former team-mate with Leicester and England and, latterly, his international coach, said: “When I look back at playing with Lewis it always brings a smile to my face – it was never dull. It’s sad that he has had to retire but he should be remembered for a great career.”