Injury ends Andrew's playing career

ROB ANDREW'S playing career came to an abrupt end yesterday, not with a trademark drop goal or a match-winning penalty from the right touch- line but with a crack of bone and an excruciating twang of the ligaments in his battered left shoulder. After 17 years at the top - he won the first of three Cambridge Blues in 1982 - the former England outside-half came off second best in a fight with an inanimate tackle bag during a Newcastle training session at Kingston Park and, with just a hint of embarrassment, announced his retirement with immediate effect.

ROB ANDREW'S playing career came to an abrupt end yesterday, not with a trademark drop goal or a match-winning penalty from the right touch- line but with a crack of bone and an excruciating twang of the ligaments in his battered left shoulder. After 17 years at the top - he won the first of three Cambridge Blues in 1982 - the former England outside-half came off second best in a fight with an inanimate tackle bag during a Newcastle training session at Kingston Park and, with just a hint of embarrassment, announced his retirement with immediate effect.

"I hit the bag, fell to the ground, landed on my elbow and felt my shoulder come out," said the 36-year-old double Lion, who dislocated the same shoulder shortly before last season's cup final. "The doctor told me that surgery was the only real alternative to retirement, so I decided it was time to go. Obviously, I'm disappointed and frustrated. But everyone has to retire at some time, and to be honest, I was going to call it a day at the end of the season anyway."

Andrew prevailed over more intimidating objects than a padded bag in the course of a 71-cap Test career spanning a dozen years. Pigeon-holed rather unfairly as a kicking stand-off, he was one of the great defensive midfielders of his generation: brave, committed and far more aggressive than his cherubic features let on. He was ruthless, too. When Sir John Hall asked him to launch professionalism on Tyneside in the autumn of 1995, he not only cut his ties with Wasps but took Steve Bates and Dean Ryan with him.

"His competitive nature and appetite for the game were an inspiration to those around him," said Bates, whose coaching career at Newcastle has blossomed under Andrew's rugby directorship. "I admire the guy hugely; he's made such a contribution to the game. But while it will be a little strange seeing him on the touchline rather than on the pitch, it's not as if he'll be sitting around doing nothing. He'll still be running things here and he's getting involved with the Club England group at Twickenham, so he has plenty ahead of him."

Having signed a three-year extension to his contract last month, Andrew will stay on as director of rugby at Kingston Park. But his most intriguing role will be in London rather than Newcastle. As a passionate pro-club activist, his input on Fran Cotton's Club England committee will be central to maintaining the fragile truce between the revisionist forces at the Rugby Football Union and the bullish new-agers on the board of English First Division Rugby.

However, his most immediate concern will be to get Newcastle through their next six Premiership matches without an experienced outside-half at the fulcrum. Jonny Wilkinson's World Cup commitments are likely to keep him away until the final week in October at the earliest, so Andrew is likely to run David Walder, the England Under-21 stand-off, against Bristol on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Leicester lost an 11th first-choice player to the World Cup jamboree when Clive Woodward called Leon Lloyd, the uncapped Tigers wing, into his squad as cover for the injured David Rees. Woodward is still hopeful of declaring Rees fit by the end of the week, but the minor groin strain suffered by the Bristol player at Twickenham last Saturday evening was still giving cause for concern when the squad reconvened in Richmond yesterday.

The Welsh and Australian squads also suffered small inconveniences just over a week before the opening match of the fourth global tournament in Cardiff. David Llewellyn, the Newport scrum-half, was granted permission to fly home from the Red Dragons' warm-weather training camp in Portugal to tend to his baby son Liam, who was born two months prematurely and underwent a blood transfusion yesterday. The Wallabies were also a player short as they boarded a flight for Dublin. Tom Bowman, the lock forward called into the party last Friday, remained in Australia for further treatment on a shin wound needing 18 stitches.

Romania have lost three players through injury, Dragos Niculae, Florin Marioara and Vasilica Tincu. Razvan Mavrodin, Adrian Salageanu and Stefan Slusariuc come in.

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