Al Baxter hopes for international swansong - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Al Baxter hopes for international swansong

By Rob Forsaith 08/06/2011 06:53:46 PM Comments (0)

Australia's most capped Test prop Al Baxter hasn't given up hope of an international swansong after he announced this would be his last year of rugby union.

But after 69 Tests and 119 Super matches he's been around long enough to know it could be a stretch.

Baxter's last Test was in 2009 and he has since fallen behind a new breed of emerging front-rowers in Wallabies coach Robbie Deans' plans.

The 34-year-old contacted Deans with news of his retirement and to make it clear he was still available for international fixtures, including the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand but admitted having no "grand illusions" about where he stood in the pecking order.

"I'd love to play as many Tests as I possibly could and I'd love to play another World Cup, but obviously that's out of my hands," Baxter said.

"(When I spoke to Deans) he was pretty deadbat (about my chances), as it usually is with Robbie, but he certainly thanked me for my time.

"He was very nice, but he wasn't giving anything away, that's for sure."

Deans paid tribute to Baxter's mentorship.

"The statistics speak for themselves, in terms of Al's durability and his overall contribution to the game in Australia," Deans said in a statement.

"It's not just what he has achieved on the field but the input he has offered off it, both to his Test colleagues but also to the younger players coming through at New South Wales."

After 13 years as a state representative, Baxter was content to be leaving the game on his own terms.

"It was tough in some ways, but easy in others. I love playing rugby union and to give it away is really difficult, but I'd got to a stage where my body was taking about five days to recover between games," he said.

"Seasons were getting longer, everyone seems to be getting bigger and stronger, so I don't think I would have lasted another full pre-season and I certainly wouldn't have lasted another full Super season.

"It's far better to leave when you're still enjoying it because I think the memories are far sweeter."

Baxter suggested teammate Benn Robinson was the best prop he has scrummaged against and nominated two World Cup campaigns and his international debut as career highlights.

There was no defining moment when Baxter knew he would give the game away, although his decision came prior to NSW's recent tour to South Africa.

The erudite prop will now turn his attention to architecture, a passion he has pursued part-time since joining the Waratahs.

He has already helped design a range of sport venues, including AAMI Park in Melbourne, and his firm have the contract for the main stadium at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

He hopes to stay involved with NSW Rugby but was perhaps most excited at the prospect of spending more time with wife Jenny and their three young boys.

"She was pretty happy I'd be around a bit more for the boys and to lead a normal life," he said.

"She was having to organise our family's life around what selectors were deciding, at both Waratahs and Wallabies level, so that can be stressful at times."

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