GLOUCESTER and England centre Leon Lloyd has today announced that a knee injury has ended his rugby union career.
The 30-year-old, who moved to Gloucester last year from the Leicester Tigers, suffered serious bone cartilage damage in his left knee while playing against the Ospreys in the Heineken Cup in January.
In March, still plagued by the same injury, he was forced to limp off against Sale and has not played since. Yesterday top Harley Street knee specialist Andy Williams advised Lloyd that the injury was career-ending. Lloyd, who won five caps for England, announced his retirement today.
He said: "I am distraught. It was only yesterday that I found out that it was all over so it hasn't really sunk in yet."
He has been at Kingsholm for one year, having signed a two-year contract. In that time he has played eight games for Gloucester, scoring five tries.
Lloyd, a married father of two, said: "Although I'm bitterly disappointed I think I'll look back on my career and feel incredibly fortunate to have played alongside some truly great players.
"I won 12 trophies at Leicester. There was a five-year period when we won everything there was to win, we were the Manchester United of rugby, and I count myself very lucky to have been a part of that."
Lloyd scored 90 tries in his 269 games for the Tigers. He has two tries to his name in and England shirt.
He added: "I want to express my thanks to Gloucester for all the care and support the club has given me and for the help they have pledged to keep giving me."
Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan added: "Leon is a fantastic professional - a model for anyone wanting to reach the top in the sport - and I thank him for the contribution he made to the squad last season.
"There are very few players who have achieved what Leon has during his career and we are as disappointed and upset as he is that his career has ended in this fashion. On behalf of the club, I would like to wish Leon every success for the future."
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
Matt Kvesic was a try scorer and recipient of the Man of the Match award in Sunday's 35-10 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Zebre. He praised the Italian side for their spirited opposition and admitted that next week's return game will be a tough one.