Lions walk away

A brace of Lions have called time on their international careers. [more]

Lions walk away

A brace of Lions have called time on their international careers.

Charlie Hodgson and Lee Mears are retiring from England duty with immediate effect.

The pair have 80 England caps between them but have decided to move aside as new head coach Stuart Lancaster looks to build a team for the 2015 World Cup.

"Both Charlie and Lee in the last six months have been outstanding senior players and I cannot thank them enough for the support they have given me and this young squad as we move forward," said Lancaster.

"They have a vast amount of experience and that has been invaluable. I had chats with both of them in South Africa and our thoughts were not too dissimilar – that if we are building a team for 2015 then, just as we did in January, we have to decide on which players will take us forward and be in the mix in three years’ time."

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Having made his England debut in 2005, Mears took time to establish himself as first-choice hooker but his selection for the 2009 Lions tour was far from a surprise.

He went on to win a Test cap for Britain and Ireland’s elite in South Africa but was dropped for the second and third rubbers after the Springboks dominated at scrum time to win the opening international 26-21 in Durban.

Mears intends to continue playing club rugby for another season at least with Bath but, with Dylan Hartley now firmly established as England’s main man in the middle of the scrum and with the likes of Rob Webber, Joe Gray and Tom Youngs pressing their claims for game time, he feels the time is right to step away from the international scene.

"The memories of playing international rugby will live with me forever. I feel privileged and proud to have experienced two World Cups and a Lions tour and to have had outstanding team-mates," added 33-year-old Mears.

“While I won't be a part of it, having seen what Stuart has implemented over the Six Nations and in South Africa, I am excited about the future of this group of players and English rugby and I wish them all the best. I have at least one more year at Bath left and with a new coaching team I am excited about next season."

Hodgson, who is still only 31, made his Test debut back in 2001 when he scored an incredible 44 points against Romania at Twickenham.

A knee injury kept him out of the 2003 World Cup winning squad but he was selected alongside Jonny Wilkinson, Stephen Jones and Ronan O’Gara when the Lions toured New Zealand two years later.

He made 18 consecutive starts for his country between 2004 and 2006 – a record for an English fly-half – but injury again prevented him from taking part in the 2007 World Cup in France.

His international career has been plagued by setbacks and he played second fiddle to Wilkinson for the majority of the time that the Newcastle and Toulon was available for selection.

Defensive frailties have also lessened his game time at international level but he did play a major part in the recent RBS 6 Nations, when he scored two tries in the opening two games before breaking a finger.  

"I have been very proud to represent England over the last 11 years. Wearing the shirt has always been the highest honour for me, not least in the last six months, and no-one would want to give that up,” said Hodgson.

"But Stuart and I came to the same conclusion that the time is right to let a new group of fly-halves take England forward. Saracens have been very good to me and been key to me getting back on the international scene and I can now fully focus on them, not to mention a young family."

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