Rugby World Cup 2011
Moody calls time on England career
ESPNscrum Staff
October 22, 2011
England captain Lewis Moody expresses his disappointment in the post-match press conference, England v France, Rugby World Cup quarter-final, Eden Park, Auckland, October 8, 2011
Lewis Moody cut a frustrated figure on several occasions during the Rugby World Cup © Getty Images

Lewis Moody has announced his retirement from international rugby, believing that it is only right that he steps down now so that England can begin the search for the right man to lead them into the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The 33-year-old flanker, who captained his country in this year's tournament in New Zealand, admitted that it will be tough for him to let go but that he feels that it is time for a changing of the guard.

"I realised I might be making this decision before the World Cup started," said Moody. 'It's a big decision to make and I feel emotional about making it, but it's the right thing to do for me and for the England rugby squad.

"My time with England has been unbelievable, even if the last few weeks have not gone so well. It's only right for the team to move on. There will be changes, maybe in management and definitely in some of the match-day 22, and if England want to start planning for a successful World Cup here in four years' time, then it is my belief that they should be appointing a new captain from February to see the team right the way through to 2015.

"Even if they still wanted me to carry on there's no way I'd last another four years, so it is absolutely right to stand down now and give someone else the opportunity to captain England."

Moody expressed his disappointment that his 71-Test career had not ended as he had hoped, with England being eliminated in the quarter-finals by France after a campaign blighted by off-field controversies involving Mike Tindal, Manu Tuilagi, Chris Ashton, Dylan Hartley and James Haskell.

"I have to take some of the responsibility because, as England captain, it was under my watch," he said. "I concede that some of the behaviour was at best naive and at worst totally unacceptable.'

"It is impossible to say how much of an impact the stories had on our performances, but clearly they didn't help. It was obviously very frustrating. Whatever the rights and wrongs, it was my job to protect a squad who had designs on becoming world champions, and that meant keeping us together in the face of increasing criticism.

"I thought it was possible we could win the World Cup. The way it panned out meant, with France in the quarter-finals and Wales in the semis, there was obviously a wonderful opportunity for us to reach the final.

"If we had played anywhere near our potential, I believe we might well have been playing this weekend in Auckland [in the World Cup final] and not already back home."

Martin Johnson's position as team manager is now under threat on account of the indisciplined nature of England's tournament but Moody is adamant that his former Leicester Tigers team-mate deserves to hold on to his job.

"I know Johnno as well as any player and he will be hurting like hell right now, but what happened in New Zealand is not his fault," the 2003 World Cup winner is quoted as saying by the Mail on Sunday. "People forget we won the Six Nations. What happened in New Zealand was down to the players. We just didn't perform or, in some cases, behave.

"There is not a single member of the World Cup squad who does not believe Johnno should stay on and finish the job, just as Clive Woodward did after 1999. I know the players are gutted that Johnno is taking so much flak. Nobody wants him to go."

Johnson paid tribute to Moody following his decision, having played with and coached him during a successful career.

"Lewis has been a great servant to English rugby and has literally put his body on the line more times than he can probably remember," he said. "To play in two World Cup finals and then lead his country in a third campaign is a great testament to him.

"He will be missed on and off the field and on behalf of everyone in the England squad, players, coaches and management, we wish him all the best for the rest of his career."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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