POPULAR Wasps vice-captain Chris Bell has been forced to retire from the sport due to a shoulder injury he picked up earlier in the season.
The England Saxons centre made 80 appearances for Wasps and captained the club in the 2013/14 season where he led them back to the top flight of Europe after a three-year absence.
His career began as Harlequins and he went on to represent Leeds and Sale Sharks before joining Wasps in 2011.
He helped to steer Leeds to the first Powergen Cup trophy in the club’s history by scoring a try in the 2005 Twickenham Final and he went on to make 275 career appearances in total.
“I am immensely disappointed that I have had to retire due to injury, however I am grateful to have had the experience of professional rugby,” said Bell who is one the most popular characters in the game because of his professionalism, honesty and strong work ethic.
“I have made some great friends, played alongside and against some amazing players and played at some incredible stadiums.
“I would like to thank Quins, Leeds, Sale and Wasps supporters for making me feel so welcome, as well as all players and staff I have worked with.
“The biggest thank you goes to my family for their support and encouragement.
“At this stage I’m not sure what the future holds. While it’s slightly daunting and a change to professional sport, I look forward to the new challenge ahead and will embrace it like any challenge we’re used to confronting on the pitch.”
Wasps’ director of rugby, Dai Young, described Bell as a ‘tough character’ but said he knew his injury was serious when he failed to return within a few weeks after picking up the shoulder injury.
He added: “Unfortunately it has turned out to be an injury that has ended his career.
“Since I’ve been at Wasps, Chris has played a massive part in helping me move the club forward, through his performances on the field and his commitment to help raise standards off it.
“As a captain and vice-captain, Chris has always been hugely supportive. He set the right standards and pushed the group hard to achieve bigger and better things.
“Chris is a fantastic role model. He sets the perfect example of how to behave as a professional rugby player and I believe he will leave a big hole and some massive shoes to fill, both on and off the field.
“It is hard to speak highly enough of Chris, because he has been absolutely fantastic for Wasps as a player, captain and leader within the group.”