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."
Gloucester have been in good form in recent weeks, but Backs Coach Tim Taylor knows that the Cherry and Whites will have to be at their best on Thursday evening (kick off 7:45pm) against a Stade Rochelais side flying high this season.
Speaking to GRTV after the bonus point win over Bristol, back row Lewis Ludlow revealed that despite a tricky first half, Gloucester backed their skills to come through, a faith that was evident in a strong second half showing.
Willi Heinz scored Gloucester's second try as the Cherry and Whites overturned a disappointing first 40 minutes and 0-6 half time deficit, to earn a 26-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol Rugby on Saturday.
It's the first Gloucester-Bristol derby at Kingsholm in over eight years this Saturday (kick off 4:30pm) and, previewing the game with the local media this week, Defence Coach Jonny Bell stressed that, with both teams in the bottom half of the table, they both need the points.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester front rower John Afoa knows the challenge ahead this week against Bristol, and calls on the Cherry and Whites to make the most of home advantage as a determined squad look to bounce back from a narrow loss to Saracens.
Tom Savage speaks to GRTV and the local media as Gloucester went down by 24-20 at Saracens on Sunday afternoon. The second row was disappointed with the result, despite a strong showing from the hosts.
Gloucester's much changed side had to overcome conceding an early try on Thursday evening, but responded in style to down Stade Rochelais by 35 points to 14 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup and set up a mouthwatering return fixture next weekend.
After taking 11 points from their last three games in the Aviva Premiership, including bonus point wins against Wasps and Bristol, Gloucester will be looking to continue their good form when they welcome La Rochelle to Kingsholm.