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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 November, 2003, 10:53 GMT
Wood calls it a day
The skippers greet each other after France's win over Ireland
Keith Wood is consoled by French skipper Fabien Galthie

Irish skipper Keith Wood announced his retirement from rugby following the 43-21 defeat at the hands of France in the World Cup quarter-finals.

The highly-rated hooker confirmed he was calling it a day when he spoke at the post-match news conference in Melbourne.

"That is it," said Wood. "It is time to hang up the boots from all rugby. It is a doubly sad day."

It was a disappointing swansong for the 31-year-old who has proved an inspirational leader for the men in green.

The former Harlequin was deperate to lead the Irish to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time.

But it was not to be as Ireland were trounced in a one-sided first half and early in the second found themselves 37-0 down.

Wood spearheaded a spirited Irish revival as they managed to claw back a bit of pride.

It was typical Wood as he always led from the front.

He had battled back from neck and shoulder injuries to get to Australia, playing through the pain barrier to grace the big stage for the final time.

Interviewed on televsion after the French defeat, the Munster man seemed welled-up with emotion, on the verge of tears.

The Irish had never been to the last four and it was their big target for the tournament.

But, once again, Ireland's progress was halted at the quarter-finals.

Serious injury

Their one-point defeat to Australia in the pool stages was perhaps the defining moment as it meant Eddie O'Sullivan's team had to face the more daunting France instead of Scotland.

Wood made his international debut in Australia in 1994 and it was not long before he was made Irish skipper at just 24-years-old, just as he returned from a serious shoulder injury picked up in the 1995 World Cup.

He was regarded as one of Ireland's few world class performers during a period of transition for the country's game and went on to be a important figure for the Lions.

Gradually, Ireland's fortunes were revived and they aproached the 2003 World Cup determined to make up for a disappointing show in 1999.

Wood had not played international rugby for 11 months before returning for the pre-tournament warm-up games.

But determination drove Wood to play his part in the biggest show.

After almost a decade in the international spotlight, Wood can be regarded as a central figure in resurrecting Ireland's standing in the world game.

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