Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Vickery: Tindall was driving force

Mike Tindall is hanging up his boots

Mike Tindall spurred England's class of 2003 to prolong their World Cup-winning generation beyond expectation, according to Phil Vickery.

Vickery hailed Tindall as a "driving force" of England's 2003 triumph, after the 35-year-old centre called time on his 17-year career.

Tindall confirmed his retirement on Tuesday after nine years with Gloucester and eight at Bath - the last of England's World Cup winners to call it a day.

The Otley-born midfielder won 75 caps for England, helping swipe the 2003 Grand Slam en route to the World Cup victory in Australia.

World Cup-winning team-mate Vickery believes Tindall's lust for rugby rubbed off on Jonny Wilkinson and Iain Balshaw, the other stars from 2003 to retire this summer.

"Inevitably it is the end of an era: I know we'll always be remembered as a squad together, but we mustn't forget what Mike brought to the England jersey in particular," Vickery told Press Association Sport.

"Mike's a good, honest, straightforward rugby player and that's what I love about him.

"He can be extremely proud of what he's done with his rugby career.

"Things have to come to an end though, and I think it's probably lasted longer than some people thought, for that group of players.

"For the last person to be retiring 11 years after winning the trophy, I think that's pretty impressive actually.

"That's a fair amount more than what could have been expected or asked, and it speaks volumes about the sheer quality of that squad."

Wilkinson capped a stellar career with the Heineken Cup-Top 14 double in France with Toulon, while 35-year-old Balshaw was forced into calling it quits last week after five years with Biarritz due to a knee injury.

Nigel Davies' Gloucester exit left Tindall in limbo at the start of the summer: the arrival of David Humphreys and an extensive back-room set-up rendered him surplus to requirements.

Tindall admitted he weighed up seeking a new deal elsewhere once he knew his player/coach role at Gloucester was over, but instead opted to retire and seek media opportunities.

"I could play two more years if I really wanted to but club rugby is a very special thing for me," Tindall told the Gloucester Citizen.

"I had to ask myself if I wanted to go and play somewhere else.

"Can you get emotionally attached to another club? I don't think you can.

"You have to face the big bad world sometime and now is the right time to do that."

Former Gloucester and Wasps prop Vickery believes Tindall underpinned the flair and panache of England's star-studded backline in 2003.

"I just hope that we continue to produce guys of his character, passion and desire, and his toughness," said Vickery.

"Unrelenting, physical and brave: he was a big, strong, brick out-house.

"His presence, his physicality, his sharp rugby brain, combine that with Will Greenwood, Jonny Wilkinson, Jason Robinson, Josh Lewsey - it blends beautifully.

"Mike was very much an integral part of that midfield, a driving force, and someone who would fight for everything.

"I know Mike was desperate to stay at Gloucester and he could have kept going - he played well last season - but he's made the right choice for him.

"If you look at how he has fought time and again to extend his career, I think others have done the same, probably even Balshaw and Wilkinson.

"And Mike will have had an effect on that."

Gloucester and England team-mate James Simpson-Daniel believes Tindall assumed a similar unsung hero role to blindside flanker Richard Hill in 2003.

"He's had a fantastic career and I'm not convinced he got as much credit sometimes as he deserved," Simpson-Daniel told Press Association Sport.

"He never quite came in for as much praise as I felt he should.

"Maybe that was to do with the sheer quality of England's midfield at the time.

"It's all fine and well having speed and creativity, but you need solidity, and Mike brought that and much more.

"Look at Richard Hill in the back-row, he never really got the full credit he deserved, because of Neil Back and Lawrence Dallaglio being so in the limelight.

"I think Tinds was probably in a similar category to Hilly really."

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nightlife galleries

More

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre