Worcester Warriors back row and former England international captain Pat Sanderson has today announced his retirement from professional rugby.
The talismanic former Sixways skipper joined the club in 2004 and led the team for six seasons in the top-flight of English rugby. The 33-year-old played a total of 156 games for Warriors during seven seasons, scoring 24 tries.
However, he has now been forced to end his playing career on medical grounds after suffering a serious shoulder injury in the RFU Championship play-offs against Bristol Rugby in March.
“I don’t feel ready to retire so this is clearly a sad time for me as I feel I have more to give,” said Sanderson. “It is something that is still sinking in and it will take time for me to get used to the fact I won’t be playing a game that has given me so much and has been so more than just a job over the last two decades.
“I have to look back at my career and look at all the wonderful memories. How privileged I have been to play the sport for so long and for some fantastic rugby clubs.
“I want to say thank you to all the people that have helped me along the way, in particular Worcester Warriors and all the fans for their support and the staff and players I have worked with. Ultimately this is where my rugby heart will remain.
“I will miss the environment and miss playing rugby, but I plan to keep a close relationship with Warriors.
“My time at Sixways has been incredibly special. When I came here Cecil Duckworth and the people involved at the time told me about the future and I bought into that dream. My biggest regret is that I cannot follow that dream to the end, but I very much look forward to now watching the continuation of that journey from the sidelines.”
Sanderson joined Warriors after previous playing spells at Sale and Harlequins and quickly became an instrumental figure at the club. The back row – captain between 2004 and 2010 – started every top-flight game in his first season with the club and was later nominated for the Zurich Player of the Season and the PRA Players’ Player of the Year.
An intelligent, skillful and hard-working player, Sanderson always led from the front – both on and off the field – and during the 2009/10 season joined an exclusive club as he celebrated his 200th top-flight appearance.
Sanderson’s outstanding contribution during his time at Sixways was rewarded with 16 full England caps. He captained his country during the 2006 Australia tour and was in charge of the triumphant Churchill Cup squad in Canada in 2005.
Sanderson’s contribution to rugby is not just limited to action on the field. He has been heavily involved with the players’ union, the RPA, and was enlisted by the RFU as a figurehead for their ‘Core Values of Rugby’ initiative due to his standing in the game.
Head Coach Richard Hill paid tribute to Sanderson’s contribution at Warriors and said: “Pat’s reputation as a player throughout the game is outstanding and he has been a true leader at Sixways over the years.
“From my perspective, I was delighted last year that he took up the challenge of two up and coming players, in Jake Abbott and Matt Kvesic. It was a really good battle for the starting shirt and Pat proved himself yet again as the fittest person at the club. When you consider what his body has been through, that was an outstanding achievement.
“His motivation to always stay ahead of the rest was superb and when he played in the middle part of the season he produced some of the best rugby I have ever seen him play. His contribution, with and without the ball, was immense.
“It is very disappointing for him to have to end his career through injury, when you look at what he has achieved and done for this club and ahead of our return to the Aviva Premiership.
“However, he was a key part in a great achievement in getting us back to the top-flight last season. Even when he was injured, when it would have been hard for him to watch the play-offs, he was still around the squad and wanted to be involved. That is testament to his passion for the Warriors, which I will know will continue despite this news.”