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Gloucester legend James 'Sinbad' Simpson-Daniel forced to quit playing

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: September 03, 2014

Gloucester wing James Simpson-Daniel has been forced to retire from playing rugby

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James Simpson-Daniel has been forced to retire from playing rugby after finally conceding defeat in his battle to return from a fractured-dislocation of his left ankle.

The Gloucester legend, who will undoubtedly go down as one of the club's greatest backs, suffered the career-ending injury in a LV=Cup victory over Newcastle Falcons in November.

There were fears from the offset that the wing, affectionately known as Sinbad, would not play again but following a double dose of surgery it was hoped he would return.

A comeback had been tentatively pencilled in for the end of last season but it was decided not to risk rushing his rehabilitation.

The 32-year-old had been targeting a return during the Cherry and Whites pre-season preparations but after suffering a number of set-backs in the final stages of his recovery specialists have advised he quits with immediate effect.

Simpson-Daniel said: "I'm totally shell-shocked. I have been battling this for a long time now but I was always confident that I would come back.

"I have been hammering the rehab and it was going well up until a certain point and now the specialists have advised me to hang up my boots.

"I always knew there was a chance it was a career-ending injury and sat in Gloucestershire Royal Hospital the night I suffered it the surgeon wanted to operate there and then and didn't think I would play again.

"We sought advice of other surgeons and after the first big operation I was told there was a chance I wouldn't recover but that they were confident I would come back.

"So while I was always aware there was that possibility, I was very confident I would be back. Now I'm still totally shocked and it will take a while to sink in."

Simpson-Daniel had injections and underwent pamindronate treatment – a type of drip injection commonly used to tackle the build-up of calcium and bone damage in certain forms of cancer – in a bid to return.

But he suffered the fatal blow to his career last Thursday as he attempted to run again during the club's pre-season camp at Woodbury Park in Exeter.

He informed his team-mates of the news at their Hartpury training base yesterday and speaking before making the announcement said: "I'm so worried sat here, staring at the clock with 56 minutes until I have to leave to tell the boys the most difficult thing. I feel sick at the thought of facing them.

"They have all been texting me and asking what's going on and I've been ignoring the messages because I know the best thing is to speak to them personally.

"But I'm dreading telling them and losing that involvement at Hartpury from my life.

"It just wasn't getting better and there have been lots of trips to London in a bid to get it sorted out.

"A few months ago I went up to have an injection but that didn't work and in a last resort we tried pamindronate treatment where I stayed in hospital for two hours and made me ill for several days.

"We were hoping that would do the trick but it came to running last week with our physio Bob (Stewart) and it didn't go to plan. He's spoken to the surgeon and it wasn't good news.

"But it's not fair on anyone, including myself, to drag this on any longer. Sat there during last week's open day everyone was asking how I was and I was having to dodge all the questions."

During a glittering career at Kingsholm, Simpson-Daniel pulled on the Gloucester jersey on 276 occasions and touched down 120 times. He is both the club's leading appearance maker and try-scorer.

The Gloucester rugby family, both past and present, have offered Simpson-Daniel in support over the last few days. And while the clearly still shocked former England international admits the news is too raw to pick out his career highlights, he will be eternally grateful to Gloucester.

He added: "Meeting (director of rugby) David Humphreys and Alex Brown and having to go through all the papers for the termination of my contract it really hit home. David has been brilliant throughout. You know what is coming and as he said, it might seem cut-throat but it's the way things have to be.

"I've contacted a couple of guys, some of my best friends are from rugby and I have grown to know them so well.

"Trevor Woodman, Mike Tindall, Nicky Robinson, Olly Morgan, Alex Brown and Andy Hazell have all been great. They know exactly how it feels and that has been a real help over the weekend.

"Hazey was saying I will reach a point when I look back on my career and realise how great it has been but I'm just not at the point, I'm gutted.

"But I'm so grateful to everyone who has played a part in my career at Gloucester from players and coaches to the Walkinshaw family and of course our great supporters.

"They've always taken me in as one of their own, even as a northerner, and have been brilliant over the years.

"That's what I'll miss the most. That roar as you exit the tunnel and run out on to the pitch."

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