Dawson closes the door

England scrumhalf Matt Dawson will retire from rugby at the end of the season, ruling out the chance to be part of England’s World Cup defence in 2007.

Dawson, who plays for Wasps, is England’s most capped No 9 and was part of former coach Clive Woodward’s World Cup winning side in Australia in 2003.

But after enjoying limited opportunities in the Six Nations under Andy Robinson, the 33-year-old decided to quit before England’s title goes on the line in France next year.

Explaining his decision he told The Times: “I always promised myself I would never flog myself into the ground, to the detriment of my performance. You can’t underestimate the effect rugby has on your body – it’s getting harder to play the game as I did four or five years ago.

Dawson’s announcement comes as he prepares for Sunday’s Cup final against Llanelli at Twickenham.

“It has been a fairly traumatic decision to make and it may surprise some people,” he added. “But there are some great opportunities coming my way that I can’t afford to miss out on, which make me very excited about going to that next level of my career. I can go out at the top of my game, still enjoying my rugby.”

Dawson, who made his name at Northampton, insists talk of entering the coaching side of the game is premature. “The game probably requires that kind of coaching more than ever,” he said. “There is no way I should be playing for England, or sitting on the bench, at 33, with relatively little pressure.”