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Club Rugby

Tigers pay tribute as Ellis is forced to hang up his boots

Harry Ellis, the Leicester and England scrum-half, has been forced to retire at the age of 28 with persistent knee problems. Ellis, who won 27 caps, has followed the advice of his surgeon after he suffered a recurrence of the injury that dogged his career for the last three years.

In 2007 he missed the World Cup, having undergone a reconstruction of his left knee. A sniping runner and combative nuisance from the base of the scrum, he reclaimed the Red Rose No 9 shirt last year and won his only cap for the British & Irish Lions in the third Test victory over South Africa in Johannesburg last July, but those 28 minutes at Ellis Park were to prove both his crowning glory and his final international appearance.

Last season he made just two Premiership starts for the Tigers, the club he had served since the age of 15. "The most difficult decision for any player to make is about when they have to stop playing," Ellis said yesterday. "This is not the way I wanted to end my career because I have always taken great enjoyment from the game of rugby and I have some very special memories. But now I will have to consider other options for the future and take on a new challenge."

Ellis, who has been succeeded in both the Tigers and England side by the talented Ben Youngs, was identified early in his career as a potential high flyer. He played for England at every level from Under-16 upwards and came to senior prominence by scoring a try while still a teenager in Leicester's Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Llanelli in 2002. He made his England debut aged only 22 in a victory over South Africa in 2004 and was first choice for his country for the next three years until he ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments in the Premiership semi-final against Bristol in 2007. He returned to fitness to win the Premiership with the Tigers two years ago and was first choice again for England in 2009.

"Harry is a local lad who made a big impression when he broke into the Tigers team," said Richard Cockerill, Leicester's head coach. "He was afraid of nothing when he wore a Tigers shirt."

Martin Johnson, the England manager and a former team-mate of Ellis, said: "If he'd been fit Harry would have continued to make a huge contribution to his club and country for many years."