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Mark Wilson retires from rugby

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Newcastle Falcons captain Mark Wilson has retired from rugby with immediate effect.

The 32-year-old came through the club’s academy and scored 42 tries in his 237 games, saying: “I’ve taken the decision to retire from rugby. It’s a decision that’s been hard to make, but it’s the right one for me and my family right now.

“I’ve been involved with the Falcons since I was a 14-year-old coming over from Kendal for academy training, and I’ve got some amazing memories. You never really know how you’re going to end your career, but for me, this is my time to call it a day.”

Cumbrian back-rower Wilson continued the Falcons’ proud tradition of growing their own, rising through the ranks to become a double centurion as well as representing his country at the elite level of the game.

Having made one appearance from the bench this season following an operation on his knee, he said: “My injury has made me re-assess where I’m at from a career point of view.

“That has been in the background and been in my thoughts quite a lot, and whilst it hasn’t been the case that the injury has physically ended my career in its own right, it’s certainly been one of the main things which has added to my decision.”

As well as becoming a Newcastle Falcons great, the Cumbrian also won 23 caps for England between 2017 and 2021, playing in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final and winning the 2020 Six Nations Championship.

Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: “We’re all gutted and disappointed that Mark is retiring from rugby, but he has made a massive contribution to this club.

“He epitomises what we are about as someone who has come through our academy system, and can look back and be proud about what was a fantastic career. I’m sure I speak for everybody associated with the Falcons when I say a heartfelt thank you for everything he has given us during his time here.

“Mark is a team man who has put his body on the line time and time again, he embodies our homegrown philosophy and we all felt an enormous sense of pride when he went on to do so well on the international stage. He has inspired so many local youngsters by coming through our academy and reaching such heights, and I’m sure he won’t be a stranger around the place.”

Newcastle Falcons chairman Semore Kurdi said: “Mark typifies what it means to be a Newcastle Falcon, as someone who has come through our academy and gone on to achieve everything he has.

“He always put the team above personal gain, he has been an incredible player and leader here for well over a decade and it gave us a huge amount of pride to see a homegrown talent recognised on the international stage when he was called up by England.

“I want to personally thank him for everything he has contributed to the club, and to rugby in our region. He will rightly be regarded as a Newcastle Falcons great who is always welcome here, and he will be an inspiration to the many talented young players currently in our academy system.

“We’ve got a wealth of highly-promising players working their way up our pathway which leaves us in great health for the future, and that’s thanks in no small part to the example Mark has given them.”

A fans’ favourite who sits at eighth in the list of first-team appearance-makers during the professional era, Wilson said: “The overriding message I want to put across is just to thank everyone, by which I mean my family, my team-mates, my coaches, all the staff at the club and our supporters.

“The Falcons fans have always been great with me, and one of the biggest buzzes I’ve had was coming out to play in front of a full Kingston Park Stadium.

“I’ll still be here supporting the team, and I’d love my son to come along and see where I used to play. So yeah, it’s just a massive ‘thank you’ from my side to all the Falcons supporters – it’s really meant so much to have all that backing during the time I’ve been here.”

With so many memories to look back on, Wilson said: “One of the fondest periods I can remember from my time here is when we came up from the Championship and had that real resurgence, going on to finish fourth and playing in the Premiership semi-finals.

“The Champions Cup campaign where we won away at Toulon and then beat Montpellier at home inside a fortnight was a great time to look back on, and the game where we won away at Leicester with the last play to book ourselves a top-four place.

“There’ll be loads more that I’ve forgotten, but overall just to be involved and to be lucky enough to lead the side in big games like that – it’s been really special.”

Asked about what lies ahead, he added: “I’ll still be coming to watch games and supporting the club, but for now it’s time to get on with the next part of my life.

“To begin with I just want to take some time off. My wife has started a new business within the past year so I want to support her in that, and I just want to be around for the kids a little bit more.

“I want to make sure I’m fully committed to the next thing that I do, and that it’s the right thing for me. I’m excited about what’s next for us as a family, and proud of what I’ve been able to contribute to the club during my time here.”

Source – Newcastle Falcons Rugby

6 Nations

Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby

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Image Credit: London Irish

London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.

The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.

O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011. 

He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017. 

O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation. 

On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.

“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions. 

“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years. 

“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy. 

“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.

“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland. 

“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.

“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old. 

“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport. 

“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.

“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them. 

“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.

“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us. 

“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.

“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career. 

“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey. 

“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family. 

“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years. 

“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.

“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then. 

“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.

“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be. 

“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”

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Premiership

Club statement | Gloucester match cancelled

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Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Warriors regret that tonight’s Gallagher Premiership match against Gloucester Rugby at Kingsholm has been cancelled.

COVID-19 cases, illness and injuries mean that, despite every attempt to fulfil the fixture, we are unable to name a team with sufficient front row forwards to comply with the competition regulations.

We currently have 36 players unavailable due to injury, illness or COVID-19, leaving us with only 18 fully fit players, of whom just three are prop forwards.

When the side to face Gloucester was announced on Thursday we named the only four fit props in the club at that stage. The availability of Murray McCallum, who was named as replacement tighthead, was subject to him passing a fitness test on Friday morning. Unfortunately, Murray failed that fitness test.

Gloucester and Premiership Rugby have now been notified that we no longer have sufficient fit and available front row forwards to allow tonight’s match to proceed safely.

We apologise to Gloucester, supporters of both clubs and BT Sport for the inconvenience this will inevitably cause but exceptional circumstances have conspired against us.

An independent Panel will now be convened to decide the points allocation and that decision will be communicated in due course but Premiership Rugby can confirm the match will not be replayed.

• The playing regulations for Gallagher Premiership matches state that:

In the interests of safety each team playing in the Premiership must have at least six fit and able players in the squad who can play at hooker, tighthead prop and loosehead prop who are suitably trained and experienced to ensure that on the first occasion that a replacement in any front row position is required (whether due to injury or consequent to a player(s) being temporarily suspended or ordered off) the team can continue to play safely with contested scrums.
In the event that a club is unable to field those six players, the match shall be cancelled.

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Premiership

Scotland international heading to Bristol

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(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Bristol Bears have agreed terms to bring Scottish international Magnus Bradbury to Ashton Gate Stadium.

The 26-year-old back rower joins Ellis Genge and AJ MacGinty as the Bears’ third international signing ahead of the 2022/23 campaign.

With seventeen caps to his name, Bradbury has made over 100 appearances for Edinburgh Rugby since graduating through the club’s Academy.

“Magnus is a physical, athletic back rower with outstanding work rate and all the attributes to thrive in our system,” said Director of Rugby Pat Lam.

“To be a centurion at Edinburgh at such a young age shows his consistency and attitude and we’ve seen from his performances on the international stage that he can compete at the very highest level.

“Magnus brings further quality and physicality to our back row as we continue our recruitment for the 2022/23 campaign.”

Bradbury made his full Scotland debut in the 2016 November Test victory over Argentina at BT Murrayfield and has featured in all three of Scotland’s Six Nations fixtures in 2022.

He added: “It’s an exciting opportunity to come to Bristol and play in the Gallagher Premiership. This is a massive club with great ambitions and a world class coaching team – I’m looking forward to the challenge that awaits.

“I’d like to pay tribute to Edinburgh Rugby and my teammates, the fans and staff at the club. It’s been an incredible journey and I am grateful for the support I have received over many years.”

Source – Bristol Bears Rugby

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