France’s veteran flanker Serge Betsen announced his immediate retirement from the international arena on Wednesday in what he said would be his final season of playing.The 33-year-old Biarritz star – capped 63 times and twice a Six Nations Grand Slam winner – made the announcement at the town hall in the Paris suburb of Clichy-la-Garenne where he started his career.
“I have decided to end my international career,” the Cameroon-born Betsen said.
“Before last year’s World Cup, I told myself that would be my final challenge on the international level.
“I am still under contract with Biarritz until the end of the season, but when that is over, I will be through with playing.”
Betsen, who was named world player of the year in 2002 and twice appeared in World Cup semi-finals in 2003 and 2007 where England beat them both times, will join fellow French greats in Fabien Pelous, Raphael Ibanez and Christophe Dominici in announcing their retirements since the World Cup.
One of the first black players to break through into the full French international side, Betsen has long been held up as a role model for introducing rugby to disadvantaged French city suburbs.
He battled his way against the odds into the France XV for a Test match against Italy in 1997, but it was not until three years later that he became a fixture in the lineup.
His standing rose dramatically in 2002 when he hammered England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson in a Six Nations game that propelled France to the Grand Slam and Betsen to the Player of the Year award.
The following year Wilkinson revenged himself by kicking all of England’s points in a 24-7 World Cup semi-final win in Sydney en route to outright victory in the competition.
Betsen continued to terrorise fly-halves in the years that followed but he struggled for most of last season with injuries including during the World Cup.
“I was injured just before the World Cup and that posed me a lot of problems,” he said.
“Even if I was able to get back playing for my club, I am not in a position to play again at the top international level.”
source : Agence France-Presse (AFP)