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."
Northampton away was the first Gloucester game under David Humphreys last season, but the Director of Rugby told the local media that the Cherry and Whites are a different proposition compared to 12 months ago and are looking forward to the challenge.
Having skippered Gloucester against the Barbarians last week, Nick Wood once again wore the captain's armband on Monday evening as Gloucester United kicked off their Aviva Premiership A League campaign with a bonus point win at Leicester.
Gloucester recorded a 32-20 win over La Rochelle on Thursday evening, and second row Jeremy Thrush was thrilled to pick up the victory on his first taste of a trip to France and the hostile atmosphere.
Gloucester were forced to battle for their 33-20 victory in La Rochelle on Thursday evening, something that centre Bill Meakes said that he and the squad were well prepared for as well as thanking the travelling support for the part they played.
Gloucester got off to a winning start in the European Rugby Challenge Cup last weekend, but Head Coach Laurie Fisher is expecting a much tougher challenge when the Cherry and Whites travel to La Rochelle for Thursday night's Round Two encounter.
Dan Thomas was a try scorer in the 14-62 defeat at the hands of the Barbarians on Tuesday evening, but told GRTV after the game that he'd really enjoyed taking on the Barbarians and locking horns with Ardie Savea at the breakdown.
After a long, hard battle to return to fitness, Henry Trinder made his long awaited comeback in the second half of the 23-10 win over Zebre on Saturday and admitted he was taken aback by the reception he got from the Kingsholm crowd.
After missing out on Gloucester's two recent European fixtures, Jonny May is back on the left wing for Friday evening's Aviva Premiership fixture at Northampton, while Mariano Galarza is named in the matchday squad for the first time this season.