Clive Woodward was not happy. The England head coach had just seen Scotland's Kenny Logan giving an interview in which he had announced he was intending to retire from international rugby after the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

He immediately fired off an email to all his England squad saying he would not select any player for the Cup who considered retirement before the tournament's end.

Indeed, no one did retire immediately after the famous victory in November of that year, though captain Martin Johnson did not play another test.

Neil Back did not play another test for England, although he did appear for the Lions in New Zealand in 2005.


France's Fabien Galthie had announced his retirement plans before the tournament and that had not gone unnoticed by England, either.

"We felt it was a mistake as it would be a distraction and the tournament would almost become a send-off party for him," Back recalls in his interesting new book, The Death of Rugby. The dramatic title refers to Back's justifiable anger at the fate of Rugby Lions, where Back was coach for the 2011-12 season.

The truth is there is no definitive answer to sorting a professional sportsperson's retirement. It is assumed All Blacks captain Richie McCaw will retire after the Rugby World Cup, despite not having officially said so.

But even he, who has done everything possible in the game, winning more caps (142) than any other player and winning 125 of those matches, admits he finds the prospect of retirement frightening. "It scares you a little bit," he said last week.