London Welsh team captain Tom May has announced that he will retire from rugby at the end of the 2014/15 season.
May, who turns 36 next month, led the Exiles to Championship success last year in his first season at the club, and will make his 46th appearance for Welsh in all competitions on Sunday when he returns to former club Newcastle Falcons.
May scored five tries in 25 league appearances in Welsh’s successful Championship campaign of 2013/14, and has crossed eight times for the Exiles in all.
Capped twice on England’s 2009 summer Tour of Argentina, May also represented England Saxons and England Sevens.
He made his professional debut for Newcastle Falcons in March 1999 and went onto make 267 appearances, including scoring 66 tries, during a 10-year spell at Kingston Park. In that time he helped the club win two domestic cups. He crossed twice in a 30-27 win over Harlequins in the 2001 Tetley’s Bitter Cup final, and three years later helped Newcastle to a Powergen Cup final victory over Sale.
He left Newcastle in 2009 to join Toulon and marked his first season in France by reaching the Amlin Challenge Cup final and the semi-finals of the Top 14. After two years he returned to England and Franklin’s Gardens, where he made 53 appearances, scoring eight tries, over two seasons before joining London Welsh in 2013.
Commenting on his decision to retire at the end of the season, Tom May said: "It’s a tough decision to make because I’ve been playing for quite a while and it’s what I’ve grown up knowing, so there’s a certain amount of fear that goes with making that decision but also a huge amount of excitement.
"I’ve been lucky to play for some really great clubs which have given me a huge amount of opportunities – Newcastle, where it all started, Toulon, Northampton and then having the opportunity to try and create something with London Welsh in terms of getting out of the Championship and then playing this season in the Premiership.
"This season hasn’t gone as we would have hoped but I’ve really enjoyed working with the guys at London Welsh. I’ve enjoyed been part of a group led by Justin [Burnell] but I know for a fact that I can’t keep on going for another year.
"People say ‘you’re a long time retired’ and you are, but if you’re waking up in the morning and you’re struggling then you know that’s the time to retire, however difficult it may be.
"Most people would point to international caps as being the highlight of a player’s career and indeed they were. I didn’t get capped till I was 30 and I’d worked very hard for 11-12 years to get there, but winning something with your mates, who you work with day in, day out, is something truly special and I’ve managed to do that three times. Those moments are ultimately what you do it all for.
"As for the future, it’s hard to turn your back on something that’s been such a big part of your life for so long, so I’ve got my own business Everything for Rugby, which is geared at grassroots rugby, I’m exploring different avenues in the media world and I’m doing some player management. Luther Burrell and Lee Dickson are two of the players I look after and it’s exciting and interesting. It’s good to be able to try and help them.
"I’d like to be remembered as someone who worked very hard and gave all he had. I wasn’t one of those guys with an abundance of skill or was unbelievably rapid, I’ve just worked really hard and that’s something I can be proud of looking back, that I gave it as good a shot as I could."
London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell said: "I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of international players and hardened professionals and what struck me was Tom’s approach towards every aspect of the game, both on the field and off it. His analytical understanding, his lifestyle management and his physical approach to the game is an absolute credit to him, and for the younger players at London Welsh Tom is the perfect example of a professional rugby player.
"Our captain-coach relationship is one of the best I’ve had and I’ve got the utmost respect for the guy. He deserves all the credit he gets when he retires at the end of the season."