I never ever believed that I would be able to give up on this dream which has driven me to live, breathe, love and embrace the game of rugby from the earliest days that I can remember.
My own position is so far on the obsessive side of preparation and professionalism that I fear my point of view is not going to be shared by anyone.
When you're obsessive, like me, searching for something unattainable can become unhealthy... it's like falling through the air and grabbing at the clouds.
I'm pretty aware that the pursuit of perfection is, inherently, a flawed concept.
I play with a fear of letting people down. That's what motivates me.
What I am proud of is I have searched for the best of me and I have been a team man without fail.
I like to think I play rugby as it should be played - there are no yellow or red cards in my collection - but I cannot say I'm an angel.
Playing the game, representing the team, giving my all and never letting go has meant everything to me.
I would like to wish the England squad every success. I would also very much like to extend those wishes to Martin Johnson, Brian Smith, Mike Ford, John Wells, Graham Rowntree and the rest of the England 2011 World Cup management team who have been fantastic and deserve people to know that.
We need to ask ourselves what are we here for and what have we worked so hard to be here for.
I refuse to go into a fast-food outlet - to use the toilet even - in case anyone got the wrong idea and thought I was sneaking in a quick burger.
To say I have played through four World Cups, two Lions tours, 91 international games and a ridiculous number of injuries and other setbacks gives me an incredibly special feeling of fulfilment. I know myself well enough to know that I will never truly be satisfied.
Right through to the end of the last World Cup game, I still couldn't bear the thought of not being perfect or letting people down.
The problem with me is I always think I should've done better. I felt that after the World Cup final and through my whole career.
To make this announcement fills me with great sadness, but I know I have been blessed in so many ways to have experienced what I have with the England rugby team.
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