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Prop Morris Forced To Retire

Prop Morris Forced To Retire

A troublesome back injury has forced experienced Connacht prop Robbie Morris to retire from rugby. The former England international’s decision was confirmed today by Connacht Rugby.

Explaining the reasons behind his decision, Robbie Morris said: “It’s not just one thing, it’s a build-up of a number of lower back problems and the advice given to me was if I keep going on I could end up severely injuring myself.

“10 years is a long time to be putting your body under the kind of pressure that exists in the front row and it’s going to give out at some stage.

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“I’ve really enjoyed my time playing and met some fantastic people along the way. My last game was the semi-final of the Amlin Challenge Cup last season against Toulon, it was a huge effort by everyone that day and we were unlucky not to win that day but it’s a great memory to have.”

Morris is bowing out at the age of 28, and after some 39 Magners League and 17 Amlin Challenge Cup appearances for Connacht. He linked up with the westerners in the summer of 2007 and made his debut that August against South Africa.

Born in Hertford, England, he began his rugby career at the age of eight with his local side Hertford RFC. At the age of 18, Premiership side Northampton Saints came calling.

Morris had a difficult decision to make as he had just won a Commonwealth Youth Games silver medal for the discus in Edinburgh. His choice twas rewarded when he was named in the England Under-18 squad.

He made his debut for Northampton in 2001 and went on to make 56 Premiership and 17 Heineken Cup appearances for the Saints, including a Heineken Cup quarter-final start against Toulouse in 2005.

While at Northampton, Morris was called into the England senior squad and made his Test debut against Wales as a 21-year-old in 2003.

The 2005/06 season saw him make the switch to Newcastle Falcons where he played with fellow Connacht forward Mike McCarthy.

In two seasons with the Falcons, Morris made 35 appearances before moving to the west of Ireland. He racked up 56 competitive caps for Connacht before calling time on his career.

Commenting on his career highlights over the decade, he said: “I’ve played a lot of big games and it’s impossible to pick a best moment but getting my first England cap against Wales in Cardiff was huge moment in my career, playing in front of a full house at Twickenham, playing the likes of Toulouse and Biarritz in the Heineken Cup for Northampton and the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final last season against Toulon – they’re all big occasions to look back on.

“Rugby is a very physical game now, when I first became a professional rugby player the front row’s role it was a very different one – it was more about scrummaging, lineouts, mauling and maybe getting in a few cheap shots than carrying the ball and making tackles.

“The props that did do a bit around the field were the ones who really stood out, the likes of Phil Vickery, Trevor Woodman and Tom Smith, but if you look at today’s players they are expected to do these things as standard.”

Morris could carve out a possible career in coaching, and a stint with the Galwegians Under-21s has certainly whetted his appetite to continue down this path.

“I’ve always tried to help out the younger players and since I’ve been injured, I’ve had more time to dedicate to going through the analysis, watch them at training, and offering advice where it’s needed,” he added.

“Dan McFarland is a very knowledgeable forwards coach, so I liaise with him and help out where I can. There’s some great young props coming through, the likes of Brett Wilkinson and Hago (Jamie Hagan) who’ve had a taste of the Irish squad and hopefully they’ll go on to get full caps and carry on from there.

“It’s too soon to decide what I’m going to do for the future, but I’m enjoying coaching at the moment. I’m involved with the Galwegians Under-21 side.

“I also enjoy being around the Connacht squad and helping them out, so I think no matter what I end up doing I will stay involved with rugby – be that as a full-time coach or even just helping out at club level.

A number of coaches have paid tribute to Morris. Former Connacht coach Michael Bradley, who was at the helm when the prop joined the province, said: “Robbie was a very important signing for Connacht in 2007 at a time when players were slow to commit their future to the province.

“He brought a wealth of experience to Connacht and rose the level of expectation and confidence throughout the entire squad and the Connacht supporters.

“On his day, Robbie was a devastating scrummager and a dynamic ball carrier. He also understood what it is to be a member of the Connacht squad and the only thing bigger then Robbie on a rugby pitch is his personality.

“He will be missed by all in Connacht Rugby and even though he will remain reserved in his departure from the limelight, the value of his legacy in Connacht cannot be underestimated on many levels.”

Current Connacht boss Eric Elwood added: “Robbie was a true professional whose positive attitude both on and off the field was exceptional.

“The physicality he brought on the pitch not just in the scrum but around the park as well will be missed by everyone here at the Sportsground.

“In the three years Robbie has been with us, he has made a huge impression on everyone and the work he has done helping to bring the younger members through has been invaluable.”

Echoing those thoughts, Connacht assistant coach Dan McFarland commented: “Robbie has been a huge person in our squad for the last three years. On the field he brought both playing ability and experience that we valued extremely highly.

“Off the field, his personality has been a huge part in the growing of our squad. Since his injury, he has become more involved in the coaching side of the game and has been a tremendous help to us in bringing our young fellas through.”