Louis Deacon’s retirement may signal the end of a glorious era for Leicester Tigers but as a man who’s lived and breathed rugby his entire life, he’s not about to walk away from the game.
Though injury means he is not quite retiring on his own terms, former England lock Deacon has had a career to envy.
He made 274 senior appearances for Tigers over the course of 14 years, winning six Aviva Premiership Rugby titles and two European Cups on the way.
And as nearly two decades of memories bubble to the surface, Deacon admits he’s facing a step into the unknown – but is confident that he hasn’t written his last chapter in rugby.
“I’d known for some time that I’d be retiring, it was about finding the right time to make the announcement – but to actually do it makes it feel all real,” said the 34-year-old. “I wouldn’t say I’m sad but it’s been an emotional day.
“It hasn’t helped at my age and though I probably could have played again but it would have been for the wrong reasons. For my long-term health it was definitely the right decision – I don’t want to be struggling for the rest of my life and my body was telling me to stop.
“I can look back with pride, six Premiership titles, two Heineken Cups, winning the Six Nations, being part of a World Cup – I’ve been lucky to achieve just about everything.
“It’s slightly scary – all I’ve ever known is rugby, straight out of school I signed my first contract and I’ve been here the last 18 years.
“But I'd like to stay in and around the game in some capacity. I did some coaching with my old school,
Ratcliffe College, and also the Spanish national team last week who obviously need help to develop but they’ve just beaten Russia for the first time in 12 years.
“I’ve also done some stuff with the commercial and community team at Leicester, learning more of the business side of it all.
“So my options are open at the moment but I think it’s helped me think over future opportunities and I can’t see why I couldn’t be involved in a variety of things.”
A one-club man is a very rare thing these days but in truth Deacon never had a reason to leave, with wave upon wave of success washing over Welford Road.
Now the club are going through somewhat of a transitional period – with Aaron Mauger set to join as head coach next season – but Deacon says their future is in safe hands.
“It does feel a little bit like an end of the era, I’ve probably played through the most successful time a club will ever have making all those finals on the bounce,” he added.
“That’s not saying Leicester won’t achieve a lot in the future but to repeat that level of success will only get harder with the strength of the competition.
“I’m the last of that generation, the likes of Martin Johnson and Graham Rowntree who I grew up around and drove the club on. But even after other people moved on, all I ever wanted to do was play for Leicester.
“My brother (Brett) is coaching at the academy so I have a strong connection with that, nurturing that next generation of Tigers and though it’s not quite the same as when I came through – we had ten or so emerging at the same time – there are definitely a few getting their opportunities and becoming better and better.
“It’s a shame, we had probably one of the best strength in depth in the second row department and now we’re losing two players in that position, with Geoff (Parling) leaving too.
“But with Ed Slater, Graham Kitchener, Seb De Chaves, the two of us leaving will only slightly weaken it and I’m sure there’ll be additions over the summer.”
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