Mark Regan announces retirement

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Former England and British Lions hooker Mark Regan has announced he will retire from playing at the end of the season.

The 37-year-old Bristol front-row, a member of England's World Cup squads in 2003 and 2007, will focus on coaching and business interests when he ends a career which began at the Memorial Stadium in the early 1990s.

"I can truly say that I have loved every single minute of my rugby career," said Regan, who won 46 caps for his country.

"Any other sports professional will understand how difficult it is to make the decision to retire, and this announcement has not been an easy thought process.

"I realise I have lived the dream of any kid who has picked up a rugby ball and wanted to wear the red rose of England."

Regan made his England debut against South Africa in 1995 and after keeping his place for the following two Five Nations championships, he was selected by the Lions in 1997.

The famously aggressive and vocal hooker had to play second fiddle to Ireland's Keith Wood for the first two triumphant Tests against the Springboks, but came in for the third with the series already won.

Having left Bristol for west country rivals Bath in 1997, with whom he won the Heineken Cup in 1998, Regan joined Leeds Tykes in 2002 where his form saw him selected by Sir Clive Woodward for the 2003 World Cup squad.

With Steve Thompson the undoubted first choice at the time, Regan was restricted to two appearances in the tournament and was not involved in the final which saw England beat Australia to lift the Webb Ellis trophy for the first time.

He retired from the international game in 2004 and won the Powergen Cup with Leeds a year later.

At the age of 35, Regan made his England comeback on an under-strength summer tour of South Africa in 2007, where he played well enough to win a place in the World Cup squad that autumn.

With Brian Ashton's team a shadow of the 2003 vintage Regan was a more central figure, playing five times and starting in the final defeat at the hands of the Boks.

He returned to his hometown club Bristol in 2005 following their promotion to the top flight and made a further 75 appearances.

Regan's career does not appear likely to have a happy ending, however, with his cash-strapped club marooned at the foot of the Guinness Premiership.