Wasps' Hart forced into premature retirement


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The Independent Online

It has been a rotten week for career-ending injuries. Lloyd Burns, the Wales hooker, retired on Wednesday at the age of 27 after suffering a serious neck complaint, together with aorta damage that may lead to heart surgery. Peter Short, the Exeter lock, called it a day at 32 after breaking a leg at the start of the season. They were joined yesterday by the excellent Wasps forward John Hart, who packed it in on medical advice and left the former Premiership champions, desperate for new investment that will stave off the threat of administration, contemplating more grim news.

Hart, who is 30, has been struggling with shoulder problems. "He has been a linchpin of the Wasps side for a number of years and I have been hugely impressed with him during my short time at the club," said the director of rugby, David Young, who also lost the England flanker Tom Rees to early retirement a few weeks ago. "His leadership and passion were the reasons I named him as captain at the start of the season. It's sad to see him go."

Meanwhile, the Grand Slam-winning Wales back-room staff are confident that Warren Gatland, the head coach, will be able to play some part in the summer tour of Australia in June despite suffering multiple fractures when falling from a ladder at his North Island beach home on Waihi Beach four days ago. The New Zealander, who is the odds-on favourite to coach the Lions in Wallaby country next year, has undergone surgery on both heels.

Gatland's assistant coaches, Rob Howley and Shaun Edwards, will oversee proceedings over the coming weeks while Gatland recovers from an operation to reconstruct his right heel and mend a single break to his left. He is currently in leg casts, but is expected to resume some duties before his recuperation is complete.