Power game claims another victim as Mower calls it a day

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The Independent Online

The growing intensity of modern-day professional rugby claimed another victim yesterday when Andrew Mower, the Australian-born flanker capped 13 times by Scotland, announced his retirement at the depressingly young age of 29.

The growing intensity of modern-day professional rugby claimed another victim yesterday when Andrew Mower, the Australian-born flanker capped 13 times by Scotland, announced his retirement at the depressingly young age of 29.

Despite two surgical reconstructions of a knee comprehensively wrecked during a training stint in his homeland before last year's World Cup, Mower has reluctantly decided to abandon all hope of a meaningful return to top-level union and get on with the rest of his life.

"At the time of the second reconstruction, my surgeons gave me a 50-70 per cent chance of playing again, but I am now five months down the line from that operation and I'm still getting pain in the knee," he said yesterday. "It was an extremely tough decision because I love the game, but there comes a point when you have to listen to your body. I've given it every opportunity, but it is time to call it a day. Now I can't play rugby any more, I'll resume my financial career in London."

Mower made more than 50 Premiership appearances for Newcastle, who signed two international back-row forwards - Colin Charvis, of Wales, and Semo Sititi, of Samoa - during the close season, partly as a result of their first-choice breakaway's continuing fitness hassles.

"We are deeply disappointed that Andy has been faced with this desperate medical situation," said Rob Andrew, the director of rugby at Kingston Park. "He has always given his best for us, and we were delighted that he won international honours for Scotland while he was playing here."

Newcastle face Perpignan in a highly significant Heineken Cup match on Tyneside on Sunday, and Andrew has made four changes to the side that chiselled out an unexpected victory over Newport Gwent Dragons in South Wales last weekend. Matt Thompson and Marius Hurter return to the front row for James Isaacson and Micky Ward, thereby giving the Falcons' pack some added poundage in the beef department, while Craig Hamilton replaces the suspended Luke Gross. Hall Charlton, a surprise inclusion in England's 40-man squad for next month's international series at Twickenham, gets the nod at scrum-half ahead of James Grindal.

Round two of Europe's elite club tournament starts tonight with games in Cardiff, Bourgoin and Toulouse. The first of them pitches David Young's struggling Blues team against Stade Français, who put five tries past Gloucester in Paris last weekend and, by securing an attacking bonus point, took early control of Pool Six.

The Frenchmen will have a different look about them when they emerge at Cardiff Arms Park. Mauro Bergamasco shifts from wing to back row - the man's versatility beggars belief - while Raphael Poulain, once popularly considered to be the future of the Tricolore back division, fills the gap left by his colleague. At the sharp end, the mountainous Uruguayan prop Pablo Lemoine replaces Rodrigo Roncero.

The Gloucester captain Jake Boer will miss the Heineken Cup match against Ulster at Kingsholm tomorrow because of an eye injury. The South African is suffering from bleeding in the retina of his right eye picked up in Gloucester's defeat to Stade Français last weekend.

Saracens, meanwhile, have confirmed that their Premiership game with Bath on 6 November will take place at Northampton, of all places on God's earth. The match, brought forward by 24 hours because of the international contingent's commitments with the England squad, cannot be staged at Vicarage Road because Watford will be playing football there. Having failed to agree an alternative date, Saracens have bitten the bullet and agreed to head north to Franklin's Gardens.

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