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Johnson confirms England farewell


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Born: Solihull, England; March 9, 1970.
1989: Joins English side Leicester.
1990: Selected to play for junior All Blacks while playing club rugby in New Zealand's King Country.
1993: Makes England debut as replacement for the injured Wade Dooley in 16-15 Five Nations win over France. Also selected as Dooley's replacement for British Lions tour to New Zealand.
1995: Member of England World Cup team beaten in the semifinals by New Zealand.
1997: Appointed British and Irish Lions captain and leads team to a 2-1 series win in South Africa.
1998: Leads England for the first time, taking over permanently from Lawrence Dallaglio in 1999.
1999:
England miss grand slam after a 32-31 loss to Wales and lose in the World Cup quarterfinals to South Africa. Suspended for match against South Africa after hitting New Zealand scrumhalf Justin Marshall.
2001: Suspended for 55 days for kneeing Saracens fullback Duncan McRae. Becomes first person to lead the Lions twice in losing series against Australia.
2002: Leicester win premiership for fourth successive time and Johnson becomes first person to win consecutive European Cups.
2003: Leads England to first grand slam for eight years and then to the World Cup with 20-17 extra-time victory over Australia.

LEICESTER, England (Reuters) -- England's World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson announced his retirement from international rugby union on Saturday.

The 33-year-old lock, who will continue playing for his club Leicester, confirmed his England career was over in a statement issued after Leicester's 46-7 European Cup victory at home to Ulster.

"After talking to my family and friends and after a lot of thought, I have decided to retire from international rugby with immediate effect," said Johnson, who scored his side's final try.

"It has not been an easy decision and it has been a privilege to play for England with some great players and a great coaching staff.

"It has been a massive honor to captain my country. There have been many highlights -- the grand slam and the World Cup -- but most of all I remember the moments together with the squad just before and just after matches.

"I want to thank the coaches who have worked with me since I made my debut, the guys I've played with and the fans who have followed us around the world."

In a statement issued by the RFU, England coach Clive Woodward said he had hoped to persuade Johnson to carry on as captain for this year's Six Nations championship.

"Martin and I spoke earlier this month about his decision," Woodward said. "I made it clear during the Rugby World Cup that I would have liked him to captain England in our defense of the Grand Slam, but I fully support his decision."

Johnson played 84 times for England, 39 as captain, and he captained the British Lions on their 1997 and 2001 tours, the only player to do so twice.

A towering presence on the pitch, Johnson's finest hour as captain came last November when he lifted the World Cup after leading England to an epic 20-17 extra-time victory over Australia in Sydney.


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