GLOUCESTER Rugby are sad to announce that after a long battle for fitness, number eight James Forrester has confirmed his retirement from professional rugby.
Regarded as one of the most gifted game-breakers of his generation, renowned for his ability to score long-range tries, Forrester (27) suffered a horrific knee injury in Gloucester colours against Bristol at Ashton Gate in April 2007.
Although he battled back through a series of operations and intensive rehabilitation that included treatment from renowned specialist Bill Knowles in Vermont, who also worked with England's Richard Hill and Dan Ward-Smith, Forrester's comeback stalled when he suffered a breakdown during Gloucester's Guinness A League match against Sale last month.
"I have put everything I have into getting back to fitness and demanded more of myself in this recovery process than I thought possible but it is simply not going to be and I have been forced to make the hardest decision any player will ever have to make," Forrester told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
"Naturally, I am devastated my career has ended in this way but I have poured every ounce of effort into getting back to fitness for more than 16 months but I now know it's not going to be enough.
"I suffered a set-back after the game against Sale and have undergone another operation. That alone means I would be out for another eight months and it is simply not feasible to continue.
"I have had a wonderful career and have a treasure trove of memories. I have been fortunate to have been involved with Gloucester during one of their most high profile and successful periods in their history and I would like to thank everyone involved at the club for making it such a special place - it will always be with me."
Forrester, who won two England caps, graduated into the Academy set-up at Kingsholm from Bicester Rugby Club alongside his friend and former Gloucester full-back Jon Goodridge.
Following his debut in 2000-1, he made 134 appearances in all competitions and scored 51 tries - including the winner in the 2006 European Challenge Cup final against London Irish at The Stoop. He was renowned for his game-breaking qualities and scored three hat-tricks - two against Bristol at the Memorial Stadium and one against Caerphilly at Kingsholm.
Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan added: "When any player's career is cut short through injury it is a tragic waste but even more so in James's case because he was such a prodigious talent.
"It is difficult to put into words just how hard he worked to return to full fitness - it was a testament to his desire to get back into the game after such a bad injury. He has played a massive part in Gloucester's recent history and his place within the club is assured."
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.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).