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Kay takes a seat behind the microphone

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World Cup winner Ben Kay has announced his retirement from rugby, but he is still likely to be a regular visitor to Welford Road in the new season.

Kay, who made 281 first-team appearances for Leicester Tigers following his arrival from Waterloo in 1999, has joined ESPN as match co-commentator for its live coverage of Premiership rugby, starting from next season.

ESPN had already announced the appointment of Austin Healey as analyst for its rugby coverage and his former Tigers and England teammate Kay will join Nick Mullins in the commentary box.

One of the most highly-decorated men in professional rugby, Kay won six Premiership titles in 11 seasons with Tigers, as well as two Heineken Cups and the EDF Energy Cup.

He gained 62 caps for England, including the Rugby World Cup-winning team in 2003, and played every minute of the 2007 tournament. Kay received an MBE in recognition of the World Cup win and also played in two Tests with the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand in 2005.

Kay said: “I’m delighted to be joining ESPN at such an exciting time for the broadcaster as it prepares to be the lead UK broadcaster of Premiership rugby. ESPN has a great reputation for producing top-quality rugby programming around the world and I hope I can add to that reputation.”

Jeroen Oerlemans, ESPN vice-president, said: “We’re delighted that Ben has joined ESPN’s Premiership rugby presenting team. After playing at the very top of the game, he has chosen to join what will also be a top rugby team at ESPN.

“Alongside Austin Healey and Nick Mullins, we are building an authoritative and authentic broadcasting experience for rugby club fans.”

ESPN and Premier Rugby have agreed a multi-year deal for exclusive live rights to 43 matches per season, running through to 2012/13.