London - England's 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning hooker Steve Thompson has announced his retirement for the second time due to a new neck injury, four years after he first quit rugby.
The 33-year-old injured his neck in training with Wasps in October, and while playing against Worcester later that month the problem worsened.
"This has not been a decision I have made but a decision that is forced upon me given the severity of the injury," Thompson said on the Rugby Football Union website on Saturday.
The 73-cap forward, England's most capped hooker, recovered from a career-threatening injury that forced him out of the game in 2007 to resume playing in France with Brive later that year, and then in 2009 he worked his way back into the national team.
There he was able to work alongside former team mate and 2003 captain Martin Johnson, who became England coach in 2008 until his tenure ended last month.
"Nothing has given me more pride than representing my country, and I would also like to thank Martin Johnson for his support over the years as both a team mate and as a coach," Thompson said.
"Playing rugby is much more than a job and there are so many people who have made my career so enjoyable."
Johnson paid tribute to Thompson's determination, which drove him to return after his first retirement.
"That Steve retired and then came back to get himself fit and in form to compete in a World Cup shows what a great player and character he is," Johnson, capped 84 times, said.
Thompson, who also won three Lions caps, spent 10 seasons at Northampton until 2007 before shorter stays at Brive, Leeds and Wasps.