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Lewsey retires from England duty

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Lewsey's magical Six Nations moments

Josh Lewsey, a World Cup winner in 2003, has decided to call time on his England career in order to concentrate on his club rugby with Wasps.

The 32-year-old won 55 caps after making his Test debut in 1998, but found himself overlooked for the autumn Tests in favour of younger players.

But Lewsey is still hoping to make next year's Lions tour to South Africa.

Lewsey scored 22 tries for England, including a crucial one in last year's World Cup semi-final against France.

He limped off with a damaged hamstring later in the same game, which proved to be his final Test, and was forced to miss the final against South Africa.

Josh is one of the best big-game players there has ever been in professional rugby

Wasps coach Shaun Edwards
Lewsey missed out on selection for this year's Six Nations but was recalled to the elite squad by new manager Martin Johnson in July.

But an indifferent start to the season at club level saw Lewsey miss out on last month's Tests, and he has decided to focus his attentions on Wasps.

"I spoke with Martin on the phone earlier this week and as he didn't consider me to be an integral part of his immediate team moving forward, I have decided that I would be better served committing myself entirely to my club," said Lewsey.

Lewsey is the ninth member of England's 2003 World Cup-winning team to retire from national duty, although only Phil Vickery remains actively involved with Jonny Wilkinson injured and Mike Tindall, Ben Cohen, Steve Thompson and Ben Kay out of favour.

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He joined Wasps in 1998 after two years with Bristol, and has been an integral part of the squad which has won nine trophies over the past decade.

"Josh is the most successful back there has ever been in the northern hemisphere," declared Wasps head coach Shaun Edwards. "That's not my opinion, that's a fact.

"He's also one of the best big-game players there has ever been in professional rugby.

"If you look at his record in big games, it's unparalleled for a back. Josh is very ambitious and an incredibly competitive person who has worked very hard for all his rewards."

Lewsey, reading out a pre-prepared statement, thanked "all the coaches, medics and especially the players that have made my England career so memorable over the past 10 years".

"Playing, but more importantly winning, for your country is the most special feeling one can achieve," he said.

Josh Lewsey's catching tips

"My last game for England was the semi-final of the World Cup in Paris last year. I would like to have contributed more since but scoring the game's only try was, in hindsight, a fitting moment to last wear a national jersey."

Rather than holding tackle bags and being a bit-part member of the England squad during the Six Nations, Lewsey believes he will have a more beneficial impact at Wasps.

"I feel I can have a more positive influence throughout this important time if I am consistently here and have made the decision to focus my efforts solely on the club's campaigns," he explains.

Lewsey believes that consistent club form, under the eye of the Lions head coach Ian McGeechan, the director of rugby at Wasps, will give him the best chance of making the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa.

I know from first-hand experience what an asset Josh was to England

England manager Martin Johnson
"One of the only things I haven't achieved in rugby is being on a winning Lions tour," added Lewsey, who was the Test full-back on the ill-fated trip to New Zealand in 2005.

"If I could achieve that it would be the most special thing. I believe performing well in a successful club team week in, week out. gives me the best chance possible of being selected."

Johnson, who played alongside Lewsey for England, said: "While I'm disappointed I fully understand the reasons behind his decision.

"On behalf of the England squad I'd like to wish him every success with his continuing career with Wasps.

"I know from first-hand experience what an asset Josh was to England over an international career that spanned 10 years, over 50 caps and two Rugby World Cups, including the 2003 final, and it was a pleasure to play alongside him."

Lewsey won his first caps at inside centre and fly-half against the All Blacks on England's "Tour of Hell" in 1998 but did not establish himself as a first-choice starter until 2003, when he starred in wins in New Zealand and Australia after a Six Nations Grand Slam.

He was an integral part of Sir Clive Woodward's England side that triumphed at the 2003 World Cup, playing five matches and scoring an English record-equalling five tries in the pool game against Uruguay.

His versatility often left him frustrated at regularly being asked to switch positions.

He made 27 starts at full-back, 12 on the right wing, 11 on the left, one at inside centre, two at fly-half and two appearances off the bench.

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Cipriani floored in training row
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England turn to Cueto for final
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