WORCESTER Warriors' Matt Cox has decided this season will be his last as a professional rugby player, after announcing he will retire from the game following this weekend's Gallagher Premiership match with Gloucester.

Cox, 33, signed his first academy contract with Warriors back in 2004 at the age of 15 but 102 caps later, he had made the decision to step away from the game that has given him so much.

“Coming from where I started in Birmingham, I don’t know what route my life would’ve taken without rugby,” he said.

“I owe a lot of those early years to my family, especially my mum and sister for dragging them around the mini and juniors circuit, drinking lukewarm cups of tea out of polystyrene cups. Without their support I doubt I’d have made it to professional level.

“Rugby has opened doors for me, and I am very grateful for that and to the people who took a punt on me – Ian Blondell, Gary Meechan, Andrew Stanley, Nigel Redman and Carl Hogg and many other coaches I have played under over the years.

“Rugby has also developed me as a person. When I was 16, I had tunnel vision and I wanted to take on the world. Seventeen years later I have more experience, I’m wiser and I have ambitions which I don’t think I would’ve had without rugby.

“I always had ambition but never a direction or real purpose and I definitely think the lifestyle experience of rugby has turned me from a boy into a man.”

Cox spent four years at Gloucester between 2010-2014 but came back to Worcester and helped them to British & Irish Cup glory and promotion to the Premiership in 2015.

“Warriors changed my life, and I will be forever grateful to the people that gave me the opportunities I have had,” he said.

“I want to thank all the supporters who’ve encouraged me over the years, I like to think I gave my all in the games and feel grateful for having had the chance to do so in front of you all.

“I’ll no longer be one of the boys on the pitch but will keep winding the lads up off it! I’ll no doubt sneak into a hospitality box to watch them, talk rubbish with some of the old boys, swapping protein shakes for pints!”