Carling leaves the international stage

Rugby Union
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The Independent Online
Will Carling yesterday announced that his international career is over. The former England captain, who won 72 caps and led his country a record 59 times, made his debut nine years ago, but has decided to call it a day at the age of 31.

He gave up the captaincy in March last year, when the England coach, Jack Rowell, might have been thinking of making a change. His international future has been the subject of speculation for some time, and in his Sunday newspaper column he said: "For a while I tried to convince myself that I could do it again next year. But over the last few weeks, once the intoxication of the Five Nations had worn off, it became obvious to me that I could not.

"If I believed I could get to the next World Cup in two years, then there would be a goal, a reason to carry on, but realistically I do not feel I can do that. I had something I wanted to prove this year, that I could earn my place as a player, not as a captain, but I cannot find a reason like that for playing next year. Of course I still love playing for England but to stay in the side there has to be a new goal, a new challenge, and, without being arrogant, there is nothing new for me to achieve next year."

Carling wants to spend more time developing his management consultancy business, but also hopes to carry on playing club rugby with Harlequins for at least another two years.

Carling's departure would seem to leave the field clear for Jeremy Guscott, his regular partner except for injury or omission from 1989 onwards, who yesterday led the praise for Carling.

"His record speaks for itself," Guscott said. "The period when Will and I played alongside so many talented rugby players was a brilliant era for England.

"Unfortunately the backs only seldom fulfilled our potential - 1990 and 1992 were exceptions. But that was no fault of Will's.

"He has judged this the right time to go. He always sticks with his decisions but only he will know next November whether he has chosen correctly. I expect he will miss the involvement."