Leicester Tigers legend Tom Youngs has urged his former team-mates to cherish life after he announced his retirement from playing.
Youngs, who decided to hang up his boots after 15 years as a professional, was given a memorable send-off prior to Saturday’s Premiership game with Bristol Bears.
The former England hooker led the Tigers out and received a huge ovation from the supporters.
The 35-year-old had previously taken leave from Leicester due to his wife, Tiffany, battling an illness and confirmed his decision to completely step away from the game last Wednesday.
He also spoke with the players before the clash with the Bears in what proved to be a hugely emotional moment.
Have to enjoy those moments
“I talked about how I’d love to do one more tackle and one more carry for them,” said Youngs.
“I talked about Tiff a little bit, about life, that when you’re in this moment and how good it is and how lucky you are sometimes.
“Then ultimately you don’t realise how cruel life can be at times, and to really enjoy those moments. There really wasn’t a dry eye in the changing room. It was lovely and will sit with me for a long time.”
Although Youngs’ retirement was slightly premature, the 28-times capped England front-row always thought that this season would be his last.
“I was always going to retire this season,” he said. “Obviously things got accelerated and I wasn’t able to play any more.
“As a professional you never know when you’re last game is, but I am very content with the decision.”
Youngs played a key role in Leicester’s Premiership title success in 2013 but the club’s form gradually declined over the years following that triumph.
Prior to Steve Borthwick’s arrival, they were in the lower reaches of the table, but the ex-England coach has overseen a significant turnaround.
The Tigers now reside at the summit, claiming 18 victories in 22 matches, while they take on Leinster in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup this weekend.
“The club’s been through a real tough time,” Youngs added. “We haven’t won anything yet, but we’re going in the right direction to do that.
“It brings everyone together when you’ve gone through those tough times. There’s a good group of young players at the club and they’ve stepped up massively.”