Injury forces Gordano's Gilmore to end his rugby career at just 26
FORMER Gordano captain Ben Gilmore is coming to terms with having to retire from rugby at the age of only 26 because of a neck injury.
The popular hooker began suffering problems last season and has now been advised to hang up his boots with immediate effect.
Gilmore, pictured, said: "I knew I was in trouble, I was getting shooting pains down my arm and I was struggling to recover from one Saturday to the next.
"I've been told that I've got damaged vertebrae and that my neck's not fit for impact. It's tough, I always thought I would have a long career, but I've got to look to the future and make sure I stay active.
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"I love rugby... it's given me the best mates you can imagine and some great experiences, and now I want to put as much back in as I can.
"The club are really keen to help me get my coaching badges, and I'll still be around on Saturdays, I'll be volunteering to help with the warm-ups, running on messages and maybe do some talking with the hookers, whatever's needed really."
Gilmore, a personal trainer, was closing in on 200 senior appearances for Gordano. He had also captained Gloucestershire Under-19s and Under-20s, having spent six seasons with the Bristol Academy.
Because of his injury, Gilmore has also had to quit powerlifting. He's on the lookout for a new sport – "maybe cycling as I'm looking into a charity ride from Bristol round Europe next year" – but has not ruled out one final rugby appearance.
He said: "You might have to look out for me on the wing in a charity match."
Gilmore will be on the touchline tomorrow when Gordano entertain Minehead Barbarians in Somerset Premier (3pm).
Dings Crusaders host Launceston (2.30pm) as they bid to bounce back from a disappointing National Two South reverse at Taunton.
Bristol's England Under-19 international Steve Uren makes his debut in the back row, with skipper Ed Hack reverting to lock and Joe Joyce on the bench.
In the backs, Sam Cox returns at centre, with Marcus Brooker moving to the wing.
Clifton, still looking for a first win after three straight defeats, face the toughest possible test, away to leaders Henley, who are already four points clear of the chasing pack.
Bristol summer recruit George Biagi returns in the second row, and the experienced Paul Fincken is back at hooker.
Former skipper George Sparks returns at No 8 for National Three South West high-flyers Weston-super-Mare, who are away to newcomers Malvern, while winless Avonmouth hope to break their duck, at Barnstaple.
There are two Combination derbies to savour in South West One West with Cleve welcoming Old Reds (2.30pm) and Clevedon hosting Thornbury (3pm).
In Western Counties North, Bristol Harlequins make several changes for the home clash with Chosen Hill. Scott Manning and Lee Pearn return from injury in the backs, while Jason Court comes in at prop and Tom Moore gets his first start this season in the back row.
Bristol Combination Under-20s stage their first training session of the new season at Broad Plain on Monday (6.45pm). For details, call manager Cherry Hall on 07889 981818.