Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Hodgson and Mears end England careers

Charlie Hodgson's England career spanned 11 years
Charlie Hodgson's England career spanned 11 years

Saracens fly-half Charlie Hodgson and Bath hooker Lee Mears have retired from international rugby after being told they do not feature in the future plans of England head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Hodgson won 38 England caps over an 11-year international career while Mears represented his country on 41 occasions and made one Test appearance for the British and Irish Lions, against South Africa in 2009.

Lancaster spoke to both players during the summer tour of South Africa and they agreed that England need to blood younger players in their positions, with the 2015 Rugby World Cup in mind.

"Firstly, both Charlie and Lee have been outstanding senior players in the last six months and I cannot thank them enough for the support they have given me and this young squad as we move forward," Lancaster said. "With 80 caps between them 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."

Hodgson, 31, made his debut against Romania when he scored a national record 44 points but his international career never ran smoothly, with injury costing him a place at both the 2003 and the 2007 Rugby World Cups.

The presence of Jonny Wilkinson meant Hodgson was often cast in the role of understudy, never able to stamp his authority on the team, although he did play in the centre alongside Wilkinson for two matches of England's 2003 Grand Slam campaign.

Hodgson was selected for the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour and shone as part of the unbeaten midweek team, but his international career appeared to have hit the buffers in 2008, when his defensive frailties were brutally exposed by Ma'a Nonu on England's tour of New Zealand and he was dropped from the elite squad.

But Hodgson was also one of England's most naturally gifted playmakers, with an ability to play close to the line, and he returned to the national set-up last summer, only to miss out on a third World Cup selection when then-coach Martin Johnson opted to only take two fly-halves.

Mears broke into the England team in 2005 but it was not until the 2008 Six Nations that he established his position as the first-choice hooker with a run of form that saw him start the first Lions Test against the Springboks in 2009.

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