Lewsey retires from international stage

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The Independent Online

Josh Lewsey this morning announced his retirement from England rugby.

The 2003 World Cup winner revealed a conversation with England manager Martin Johnson convinced him to call time on his red rose career.

Lewsey, 32, spoke to Johnson after being overlooked for England's autumn international campaign despite being recalled to the senior squad in July.

Lewsey explained: "After consultation with Martin Johnson, the England team manager, I have decided to retire from representing my country on the rugby field.

"I spoke with Martin on the phone earlier this week and as he didn't consider me to be an integral part of his immediate team moving forward, I have decided that I would be better served committing myself entirely to my club, London Wasps."

Lewsey made his Test debut on the infamous 'Tour from Hell' in 1998 and cemented his place in the England team at full-back in the 2003 Six Nations before winning the World Cup later that year.

The last of Lewsey's 55 England caps came with a try-scoring appearance against France in last year's World Cup semi-final. He missed the final with a hamstring injury.

"Although I would have liked to have contributed since, scoring the game's only try was, in hindsight, a fitting moment to last wear a national jersey," he continued.

Lewsey won three caps with the British and Irish Lions in 2005 - and he has targeted a place on next summer's trip to South Africa.

"It is still a huge goal of mine to be part of a winning British Lions tour," he said.

"Therefore, my decision is also made in the belief that performing well in a successful club team week in and week out gives me the best chance possible of being selected for next year's Lions tour."

Johnson paid tribute to his contribution to England for the last decade.

"Josh has spoken to me about his decision and while I'm disappointed I fully understand the reasons behind his decision to retire from international rugby," he said.

"On behalf of the England squad I'd like to wish him every success with his continuing career with London Wasps.

"I know from first-hand experience what an asset Josh was to England over an international career that spanned 10 years, over 50 caps and two World Cups including the 2003 World Cup final and it was a pleasure to play alongside him."

As part of the elite squad, Lewsey spent the first half of each November week training with England before returning to Wasps.

With the club struggling in the Guinness Premiership and set to lose around 10 players on Six Nations duty, Lewsey believes he can make a "more positive influence" by directing all his focus on Wasps.

"With so many of our players already away on international duty, being away with the national squad from Sunday to Wednesday each week has been enormously disruptive on the club's and my own individual preparation," said Lewsey.

"I feel, therefore, that I can have a more positive influence at Wasps throughout this important time if I am consistently here and have made the decision to focus my efforts solely on the club's campaigns.

"Over the past two seasons, though not being selected internationally, my club coaches have been very happy with my form and attitude.

"It is a very exciting time for Wasps and while many onlookers may have written us off, our challenge is to improve on our poor start to the season, building on recent wins to generate momentum and push to challenge for yet more silverware."

Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan added: "Josh has been an outstanding player for England and is probably one of the most successful backs in English rugby for his achievements both with his club and country.

"As a club we are delighted that Josh is able to focus his attentions solely on Wasps campaign.

"It is very important that we have a good focus, as we did last year, particularly when the internationals are away and to have that added experience, knowing that he is going to be here throughout the season is a bonus for us."