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Tigers' Smith calls it quits

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'I still love playing the game, but I don't feel like I'm at the level I used to be'

Matt Smith has announced he will retire from the game at the conclusion of the 2018/19 season after 14 years of professional rugby with Leicester Tigers and will become the club’s academy head coach.

The Tigers academy graduate made his senior debut for Leicester in March 2006 against the Barbarians at Welford Road and has since gone on to make 227 appearances and score 30 tries for his hometown club.

Smith followed in the footsteps of his father, Ian ‘Dosser’ Smith, in playing for Leicester and the pair achieved the milestones of becoming the first father-and-son combination to both make 100 and 200 appearances for the club.

Smith, 33, said:  “I have thought about it throughout this season and now feels like the right time for me to farewell the game as a player. I still love playing the game, but now I don’t feel like I’m at the level I used to be and it’s the time for someone else and someone younger to come in and do the job this club needs of them.

“I feel very lucky to be able to finish on my own terms, having watched good friends finish without that chance, so the thought of being able to walk off Welford Road after my last game is something I feel very fortunate to be able to do.”

Smith joined the club’s junior academy aged 14 and graduated from Oakham School, where he was a schoolmate of fellow Tigers academy member and future senior team-mate Tom Croft.

In 14 seasons in the senior squad, Smith has been a member of four Premiership and three Anglo-Welsh Cup winning sides, as well as this season acting as a coach for the academy in their successful defence of the under-18 league title.

“I am where I am today because of a lot of people, I owe each of them who have helped me along my way from school up until now for helping me get to this point,” said Smith. “My wife, Alicia, has let me live out this ridiculous life and dream for all these years and I cannot thank her enough.

“I’m so glad I’ve been able to share this journey with her, my brothers and sisters, my friends and my parents. My mum was the driving force to sending me to Oakham School and has been such an emotional support for me throughout my career, she is an incredible lady.

“Of course, I can’t thank my dad enough either. He’s always been there for advice and was the person who introduced me to Tigers, helped me fall in love with this place and taught me so much about the club.

“I watched my dad play at Welford Road and in the past few seasons, when things have been tough and I’ve approached the end of my playing days, the motivation to keep going for me has been that I could have my sons Felix and Monty do the same. I’ve had my time and lived my dream, which I am so fortunate to have been able to do, but it’s time for me to take on my next challenge.”

Smith’s next challenge will be to take on a full-time role with the Tigers academy programme, where he has been appointed to the role of head coach for next season to work alongside academy manager Dave Wilks.

Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy said: “Matt has been a fantastic servant of this club and represents everything we want a Tigers player to be. His commitment to his team-mates and the badge has been second to none from when he first arrived as a skinny teenager to now, as a senior player in the squad.

“It was a pleasure to play alongside him and it has been just as much a pleasure to coach him, which I believe will be the case working together as he helps develop the next generation of talent in the Tigers academy.”

Matt Smith tackles Bristol’s Tom Pincus last month (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Tigers captain Tom Youngs added: “It’s sad to see Matt call time on his career for the whole team and myself in particular, having come through with him from when we were kids to now.

“He has given absolutely everything for this club every single time he has pulled on the shirt and is a great example of what it means to be a Tigers player.

“I’m excited for him as he moves into the next chapter of his life and the next generation of players coming through the academy will benefit hugely from having him as a mentor.”

WATCH: Matt Smith in action mentoring in The Academy, the RugbyPass documentary on the Leicester Tigers

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'I still love playing the game, but I don't feel like I'm at the level I used to be'