Lee Mears talks to the Rugby Club after a heart condition forced him to retire from professional rugby
The Rugby Club catches up with Bath stalwart Lee Mears, who was forced to retire due to a heart issue.
Last Updated: 08/03/13 2:44pm
A routine check-up revealed a heart condition that immediately put an end to his 16-year rugby career, and while he is still coming to terms with the abrupt end, he is dealing with it the only way he knows how.
"I'm not a super medic but the specialist explained that the wall of my heart had thickened which could have a detrimental impact if I kept on playing at the highest level - so asked him if he had ever seen me play!" said Mears.
"I just try and deal with it like I have with everything, with a smile on my face. I know I have been very lucky and that I have had some wonderful experiences. I'm thinking 'what's next, where can I go and how I can enjoy it like I did the last 16 years."
Mears was the ultimate one-club man; he joined Bath in 1998 and notched up 201 appearances for the club - and although he went on to win 42 caps for England and four caps for the British and Irish Lions, Bath is where the home is.
"I call this place home and have lived in Bath most of my career," said the 34-year-old. "It was always a focus to stay at Bath - it's a special place, a special club and I have had some special times here.
"They have been super supportive, I cannot thank them enough. I found out on the Wednesday, told Gary [Gold] on the Thursday morning and he asked what I wanted to do. I wanted the boys to know as soon as possible and once I had told them I felt a big relief."
"I had the next few days just to myself - they were okay, I just went through the good memories, remembering what I had achieved and how good it was rather than focussing on that I was not going to be out there anymore.
"It's still little bit raw, though, and while I want to support the guys and I text them before and after the game I just cannot quite go and watch them yet.
"But this is home and I won't be going anywhere - we have a kit man called Ken who is a real legend here, he's about 90 now and I have told him I am coming for his job!"
Mears joined Bath in their glory days - they had dominated the domestic season for almost a decade before lifting the Heineken Cup in 1998.
And while Bath fans may yearn for the glory days to return, Mears is happy that the Premiership is more competitive these days and says that owner Bruce Craig has some big plans for the club.
"The way the game has evolved from those days is amazing because back then you had your Baths, your Leicester and your Wasps," he added.
"You had your crunch games with Bristol and Gloucester but there was not everybody beating everybody. I think the game of rugby is richer for everybody being a lot closer.
"Bruce has got a rugby passion, he played rugby for Racing Metro, so we have someone who loves the city, loves the club and who also loves the game - that can only be a good thing.
"I think he is looking above the Bath of old and wants to be a Toulouse - playing that free-flowing rugby and having an amazing squad."