England and Wasps scrum-half Matt Dawson has announced that he will retire from all rugby at the end of the current season.
Dawson won 77 caps for England in a glittering career
The 33-year-old, who was part of the England side that won the World Cup in 2003, will stand down this summer after 14 years at the top level.
"I always promised myself I would never flog myself into the ground," Dawson told the Times.
"You can't underestimate the effect rugby has on your body."
Dawson started his playing career in 1991 with Northampton and made his England debut against Samoa four years later.
He won 77 caps for his country in total, including nine as captain, and was instrumental as England won the 2003 Six Nations Grand Slam and triumphed at the 2003 World Cup.
Dawson, who has also made three British and Irish Lions tours, moved to Wasps in 2004 and won the Premiership title in his first season.
He was dropped from the England squad in 2004 after he was unable to attend training because of a clash with his business commitments.
Dawson has enjoyed a successful spell with Wasps
England's most capped scrum-half returned to the fold in 2005 but had limited opportunities in this year's disappointing Six Nations campaign.
Leicester's Harry Ellis started at number nine for four of the five matches but Dawson was almost certain to have been in coach Andy Robinson's plans for the 2007 World Cup in France.
"It has been a fairly traumatic decision to make and it may surprise some people," Dawson added.
"But there are some great opportunities coming my way that I can't afford to miss out on, which make me very excited about going to that next level of my career.
"I can go out at the top of my game, still enjoying my rugby. It's getting harder to play the game as I did four or five years ago.
"This is no reflection on England's recent results, it's all about timing and at some stage you have to be a bit selfish.
"There is no way I should be playing for England, or sitting on the bench, at 33, with relatively little pressure."
Dawson is unsure of what he will do in the future but would be keen on passing on his experience at scrum-half clinics.
"The game probably requires that kind of coaching more than ever," he said.
Robinson, who decided to drop Dawson from the elite player squad in 2004 after he missed training to film 'A Question of Sport', led the tributes to the scrum-half.
"Matt has been an outstanding player for Northampton, Wasps, the British and Irish Lions and of course England," he said.
"As one of the key members and leaders of the side, Matt made a huge contribution towards England becoming the number one side in the world in 2003, to the Grand Slam in the same year and of course our World Cup success.
"He was also an excellent captain for his country and I'd like to wish him every success in the future."
Wasps rugby director Ian McGeechan, who led Dawson on the 1997 Lions tour to South Africa, said Dawson's retirement would be a loss to the English game.
"Matt has been a huge part of English rugby for the past decade," he said. "One of the big characters in rugby is leaving the game.
"I've known him for 12 years, and there has always been something special about him from the beginning.
"It has been fitting to see all that talent come to fruition since then. Despite some serious injuries, Matt's potential has been fulfilled.
"He can leave the game with a lot of satisfaction from his huge contribution to England and Lions rugby.
"Wasps will miss the huge experience that Matt possesses, but we have some exciting talent emerging at scrum-half."