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Connacht’s Robbie Morris retires through injury

Guinness PRO12 Editor

15 Nov 2010

Born in Hertford on the 20th of February 1982, Robbie Morris began his rugby career at the age of 8 with his local side Hertford RFC. At the age of 18, Premiership side the Northampton Saints came calling.

Robbie had a difficult decision to make as he had just won a silver Commonwealth Youth Games medal for discuss in Edinburgh. His choice was rewarded when he was named in the England U18 squad. He made his debut for the Saints in 2001 and went on to make 56 premiership and 17 Heineken cup appearances including reaching the Heineken cup quarterfinal in 2005. While at Northampton, Robbie was called into the England Senior squad and made his debut against Wales as a 21 year old in 2003. The 2005/6 season saw him make the switch to the Newcastle Falcons where he played with fellow Connacht forward Michael McCarthy. In two seasons with the Falcons, Robbie made 35 appearances before moving to the West of Ireland. He made his Connacht debut against South Africa in 2007 and added 39 Magners League caps and 17 European Challenge Cup games to his Connacht tally before being forced into retirement in 2010 through a back injury.

Robbie on career highlights:
“I’ve played a lot of big games over the 10 years and it’s impossible to pick a best moment but getting my first cap against Wales (in2003) in Cardiff was huge moment in my career, playing in front of a full house at Twickenham, playing the likes of Toulouse and Biarritz in the Heineken cup for Northampton and the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final last year against Toulon, they’re all big occasions to look back on.

“Rugby is a very physical game now, when I first became a professional rugby player the front rows role it was a very different , it was more about scrummaging, lineouts, mauling and maybe getting in a few cheap shots in than carrying the ball and making tackles , the props that did do a bit around the field were the ones who really stood out, the likes of Phil Vickery, Trevor Woodman and Tom Smith, but if you look at today’s players they are expected to these things as standard”

Robbie on coaches:
“I’ve played with and against some great players, and been coached by some great coaches as well, Wayne Smith was a big influence in Northampton, not just on me but on coaching in England as well, the stuff he brought over from New Zealand influenced everyone, even the England set-up at the time were taking stuff from him”

“I was brought into the Newcastle team by Rob Andrews and got on really well under that setup but after 2 seasons there I felt it was time for a new challenge, I’d been playing in the Premiership for 6 years and was playing with Macca (Michael McCarthy) who was moving to Connacht and heard great things from Damien Browne (brother of Connacht lock Andrew) who I’d played with in Northampton so when Michael Bradley offered me the opportunity to join the squad I jumped at it”

Robbie on now and the future:
“I’ve always tried to help out the younger players and since I’ve been injured I’ve had more time to dedicate to going through the analysis, watch them at training, and offering advice where it’s needed. Dan McFarland’s a very knowledgeable forwards coach so I liaise with him and help out where I can. There’s some great young props coming through, the likes of Brett Wilkinson and Hago (Jamie Hagan) who’ve had a taste of the Irish squad and hopefully they’ll go on to get full caps and carry on from there”

“It’s too soon to decide what I’m going to do for the future but I’m enjoying coaching at the moment. I’m involved with Galwegians U21’s side and I enjoy being around the Connacht team and helping them out so I think no matter what I end up doing I will stay involved with rugby, be that as a full time coach or even just helping out at club level”
Robbie on the injury that forced him to retire:

“It’s not just one thing, it’s a build up of a number of lower back problems and the advice given to me was if I keep going on I could end up severely injuring myself. 10 years is a long time to be putting your body under the kind of pressure that exists in the front row and it’s going to give out at some stage, I’ve really enjoyed my time playing and met some fantastic people along the way. My last game was the semi-final of the Amlin Challenge Cup last season against Toulon, it was a huge effort by everyone that day and we were unlucky not to win that day but it’s a great memory to have.”

What the coaches have to say:
Former Connacht Head Coach Michael Bradley who was at the helm when Morris joined Connacht in 2007:
"Robbie was a very important signing for Connacht in 2007 at a time when players were slow to commit their future to the Province. Robbie brought a wealth of experience to Connacht and rose the level of expectation and confidence throughout the entire squad and the Connacht supporters. On his day Robbie was a devastating scrumager and a dynamic ball carrier. Robbie also understood what it is to be a member of the Connacht squad and the only thing bigger then Robbie on a rugby pitch is his personality. He will be missed by all in Connacht Rugby and even though he will remain reserved in his departure from the limelight the value of his legacy in Connacht cannot be underestimated on many levels".

Connacht Rugby’s Assistant Coach Dan McFarland:
“Robbie has been a huge person in our squad for the last 3 years. On the field he brought both playing ability and experience that we valued extremely highly. Off the field his personality has been a huge part in the growing of our squad. Since his injury Robbie has become more involved in the coaching side of the game and has been a tremendous help to us in bringing our young fellas through.”

Connacht’s Head Coach and former Irish International Eric Elwood:
“Robbie was a true professional who’s positive attitude both on and off the field was exceptional. The physicality he brought on the pitch not just in the scrum but around the park as well will be missed by everyone here in the club. In the 3 years Robbie has been with us he has made a huge impression on everyone and the work he has done helping to bring the younger members through has been invaluable.”