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Burke brings 16-year career to an end

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Tigers fly-half Paul Burke has announced his retirement from rugby with immediate effect.

A persistent knee injury has forced the 35-year-old former Ireland international to bring his 16-year career to an end after two seasons with Tigers.

“Your body always tells you when it’s the end of your playing days,” said Burke, who moved to Leicester from Munster prior to the 2006/07 campaign.

“The mind would love to keep on playing but the body is saying other things. I do hope to stay in the game in some capacity, though.”

Burke scored 122 points in 21 appearances for Tigers as he added the 2006/07 Guinness Premiership and EDF Energy Cup titles to his lengthy list of achievements.

“Coming here was a fantastic move. Being part of the success in my first year, particularly winning the EDF Energy Cup, was massive. You know that if you come to a club like Leicester you’re going to be in the hunt for trophies because of the calibre of the squad that we have here. Every competition we enter, we want to win it.”

Burke played four of the club’s five fixtures in that EDF triumph, scoring 34 points to guide Tigers to their first trophy since the Heineken Cup triumph in 2002.

“Winning the EDF and playing a big part in that was, personally, a big achievement for me because the club hadn’t won anything for five years. In fairness to Pat Howard, he took a punt by picking me when a lot of people probably felt he was taking a big risk selecting me for such a massive game. He stuck by me and I take my hat off to him for that. I’d like to think I produced the goods for him.”

If the 41-35 victory over the Ospreys was a highlight of Burke’s time with Tigers, his impressive CV includes plenty of other memorable moments with some of the most famous clubs in England, Wales and Ireland.

“I’ve had a lot of highs and one or two lows and I can’t really say I’ve had any regrets.
I’ve got 13 international caps, I’ve made some fantastic friends through the game and I’ve been very fortunate to play for the clubs I’ve played for.

“Winning my first cap back in 1995 against England and then going on to play in the World Cup in South Africa was a fantastic experience. On the domestic scene, I’ve played at some massive clubs that are steeped in history and tradition. 

“In my two years at Cardiff we won a Celtic League title in 1999 and I got Supporters Player of the Year while Neil Jenkins was there. I went to Harlequins in 2000 and had four years there in which we got to three finals and won two Parker Pen Shields. They were highlights, as was beating off relegation with Quins when we had a head to head against Leeds where it looked like whoever lost would go down.

“They were all highlights, as was going back to Munster. I’d played for Munster back in 1994 and I’d played in the first-ever Heineken Cup match at Thomond Park against Swansea. To then be part of the squad that won the Heineken Cup for the first time in 2006 was an amazing achievement. Even though I didn’t play in the Final, being part of that was fantastic.”

Having begun his career in the amateur era, Burke has seen a massive transformation in the game over the past decade and a half. Although injury has meant it is now time to close the door on his own playing career, he believes that those coming through to take his place will be entering a sport in impressive health.

“There’s no comparison from when I started playing, really. Everything, both on and off the field, has changed. We were originally training two nights a week and then, at the start of professionalism, we tended to over train. We were being paid so we didn’t think we could have a day off. As the years have rolled on, the game has become really professional and it’s a great a time for youngsters to come into the sport.”