Rugby Union: `No question: he was a world class centre'

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Carling as a captain was unique and I don't think we will see the like of him again. As a player he was explosive in attack and defence, with a cool head in a crisis and with the capacity to smoothly drive on a team that was purring like a Rolls-Royce. When he resigned as captain all the players still looked to him in times of trouble and that is a measure of his influence and the respect they had for him. Jack Rowell, former England coach.

I have the greatest respect for Will as a player, and although things have not worked out as we would have liked over the last few months, there's no doubt his departure will be a great loss to the squad. Andy Keast, Harlequins director of rugby.

Will was probably one of the most consistent players in the international field. He was consistently great and occasionally produced magnificent performances. He changed the nature of English rugby and contributed to the mass appeal of the sport. You only have to look at the state of rugby 10 years ago to see what a change has occurred, and he did much to promote rugby and its high-profile image. He has crossed the boundary, being a personality in his own sport, and is a nationally recognised figure. Phil de Glanville, Carling's successor as England captain.

It was one of those situations where everything fell in place. They say cometh the hour, cometh the man and Will proved to be the man to provide the focus for a resurgence of England's fortunes. He became a media darling and was the first high-profile English player. There is no question that he was a world class centre. Making him captain was the best rugby selection I ever made. He has had a great, long career and it's a pity that his abrupt retirement comes when there was still plenty of rugby left in him. Geoff Cooke, former England manager.