Rugby Union: Time to hang up my beloved boots

Jonathan Davies admits that he was beaten by the training and not the game
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The Independent Online
No longer do I play rugby for a living. I'll play for fun, for charity and I might play a bit of serious sevens - and even turn out for Cardiff again if they ever get that desperate - but my professional career is over. The announcement was made last night together with the news that I have signed a three-year contract with the BBC to help their rugby union and rugby league coverage both internationally and at club level.

It is a very exciting opportunity for me to further my media career but I want to stress that my retirement was not a requirement of my BBC contract. They have been very understanding and would have been happy to allow me to carry on playing. Neither have Cardiff put any pressure on me. They know what I and my family have been through and could not have been more patient.

But all through my rugby career I have prided myself on my timing and I believe I've timed the end right, too.

I have to admit that during the last months of Karen's illness and since we lost her, rugby has not been uppermost in my mind. But when I returned from a long holiday with the kids I had to give some thought to my future and I suddenly realised that the problem was not going to be playing rugby but training for it.

I hadn't played since the final match of the season against Swansea in May and because I'd broken my wrist in that game I wasn't able even to do light training for a month or more. So when I was back in circulation at the start of August I hadn't trained at all for three months and the rest of the Cardiff squad had been at it like demons for six weeks.

That didn't suit me at all because throughout my career the basis of my fitness has been my pre-season work. I always believed that the harder you worked in the summer the more benefit you'd feel through the winter. But not only did I face a severe catching-up period I then had to contend with a training routine of two sessions a day, four days a week, a match on Saturday and a recovery session on Sunday. That is a huge commitment and I couldn't, in all honesty, promise to take it on.

The irony is that three years ago I would have had no worries about playing on. In the days before professionalism, clubs used to train just two evenings a week. That would have suited me fine because I feel certain I have a season or two left in me. My right knee is a bit wonky and I played most of last season on one leg but after the lay-off I've had I would have been prepared to carry on.

But I've always considered myself as a true pro and the brutal fact is that professionalism has done for me. I've got to think first of my family and my future and I would not be fair to either, nor to my club, if I attempted to cram all this commitment into my life.

I shall miss the friendship and the dressing-room mickey-taking but I won't be far away and I am very excited about my job with the BBC. It was a big factor in my decision because the offer might not have been there in a year or two. It gives me a great chance to learn about television and radio work and retiring means that I can concentrate fully on that and my other business interests and still be around for the kids.

I'll have plenty of time to reflect on my career but I've been very lucky to have spent so long at the top in two great games. Being able to return home and to union was a great bonus at the end of my career. Some doubted I could make a successful return but I managed it and one of my greatest comforts is that Karen was able to take Scott to see me play for Wales again at the old Cardiff Arms Park.

Finally, I hope I gave to both games as much as I got from them. People are still kind enough to say how much they enjoyed watching me play. I doubt if they enjoyed it as much as I did.

Tribute from a great

'Jonathan was one of the great players of his generation. He was an outstanding outside-half. He played in a Welsh team that was not one of the best and he often had to carry it. I wish him well in whatever he chooses to do next'

Gareth Edwards

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