Tom Rees has revealed that he was handling his retirement from the game pretty well until he learned last year that James Haskell had decided to hang up the boots. Once tipped to become England captain, Rees was forced to retire from the game in 2012 at the age of 27 due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

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He had come to terms with that disappointment of earning just 15 England caps, forging a new career as a doctor. However, the memories of his cut-short life as a rugby player came flooding back in 2019 when his old pal Haskell decided to call it quits.  

“When Hask retired, that was quite a sad moment for me. It almost marked the end of my generation,” explained Rees in an interview with the UK Telegraph. “I feel mixed, from a sense that I did not achieve the things I wanted to. I envisaged having this long, glittering career, winning 50 caps for England, multiple World Cups and Lions tours.

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Re-elected World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont guests on the latest edition of The Rugby Pod

“I didn’t get to do that, but I am very grateful for what I did get to do and very proud. There are plenty who don’t get the opportunity to do the things I did. Now I’m 35, I no longer feel as though I am missing in action if that makes sense – it is getting slightly easier to reflect on it.

“In future, I might think I got to do the best of both. Rugby has not left me too physically ruined, and if I was facing the prospect of at least five years of university (to study medicine) starting at age 35, I am not sure if I would be able to do it.

“I sometimes watch the sport and think that even if I hadn’t got injured, I am not entirely sure I would be able to cut it with how much it has changed, how much the physicality and the pace has increased. It keeps moving forward.”

Last month, some fellow Wasps greats paid tribute to Rees’ new career as a doctor, highlighting his work in tackling the coronavirus pandemic. Legends such as Lawrence Dallaglio, Raphael Ibanez and Trevor Leota passed on messages to their former team-mate, thanking the ex-openside for his efforts with the NHS.  

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