ROB VICKERS has announced his retirement from rugby at the end of the season, with the popular Newcastle Falcons prop set to make his final competitive appearance at Kingston Park in Saturday’s Aviva Premiership game with Wasps.

Vickers has spent more than a decade with Falcons, a spell that has encompassed 260 senior matches, and has been a key figure in this season’s run to the Premiership semi-finals.

He will be involved in both this weekend’s game with Wasps and a semi-final against either Exeter or Saracens – and potentially a Premiership final too - but will call time on his career at the end of the campaign.

“I’ve had a number of discussions with Dean Richards and, to be fair, I just think I’m ready for it,” said Vickers, who signed for Falcons after completing his studies at Durham University. “I feel as though I’ve still been contributing to the team this season, but I’ve always said I didn’t want to stay on too long and be that player who just hangs around and eventually falls off a cliff.

“For me, this is the perfect time with the team flying high, with me still playing a genuine part, and it just feels like the moment to step aside and let someone else come through to keep this team moving forward.”

The 36-year-old has played in all but three of Falcons’ 21 league games this season, scoring a dramatic late winner in their most recent home win over Sale Sharks and also contributing to last weekend’s crucial success at Leicester Tigers.

A one-club man, he has remained loyal to Falcons for 12 years and has always been a firm fans’ favourite, with his ability to crash over the try line from close range part of club legend.

“It has been a lot of games and a lot of years, and it’s hard to put into words how much this club means to me,” he said. “I always wanted to be a one-club man, and even when the Falcons got relegated I made the decision that I wanted to stay here and help us to move in the right direction.

“I’d like to think I’ve played a small part in that journey, and when I do hang up my boots in hopefully three games’ time I’m leaving the club in a better place.”

A Yorkshireman by birth, Vickers intends to remain in the North-East once his playing days are at an end, and is already turning his attention towards a possible future career in coaching.

“My wife Elaine has a farm in County Durham and I think she’s going to let me have a drive of her tractor for a little while,” he said. “She runs the cattle side of things – to me they just have four legs and go ‘moo’ – but I have a big interest in the arable side of the farm. If I’m allowed I’ll get out on the tractor, and hopefully not hit too many gate posts.

“Having played rugby for so long, I also feel I have something to offer in a coaching capacity. Whatever that might be is still yet to be determined, but I’d love to stay coaching somewhere.

“Most importantly, I want to spend some time being a dad and a husband. As rugby players we have the best job in the world, but it does require sacrifice and one of the main sacrifices is not getting time at home with your children. We’re away a lot of the time through rugby, it can be the children who suffer and I’m looking forward to spending much longer with my two kids.”

Vickers has played under a number of different coaches during his time at Kingston Park, but was keen to pay tribute to Falcons’ current director of rugby, Dean Richards.

“It’s a dangerous game when you start publicly thanking people because you’re inevitably going to miss out someone who has been really important to you, but if I mention only one name it would be Dean Richards,” he said.

“He showed the courage and foresight to move me from hooker to loose-head, he stuck with it and it has undoubtedly prolonged my career. Not every decision will go your way when you’re working with the same director of rugby for so many years, but Dean has always been fantastic with me and I’m enormously grateful for the role he has played.”