BATH'S veteran hooker Lee Mears has been forced to retire due to a heart condition.

The 33-year-old, a veteran of 268 Club appearances and 42 England caps, as well as one for the British and Irish Lions, has stepped away from the game with immediate effect after a club cardiac screening revaled an abnormality that could cause Mears to develop complications if he continued to play elite level rugby.

Mears, who has been with Bath since 1997, said: “Bath is my Club and I love it.

"This is not how I saw it ending but I feel enormously proud to have played for such a club so many times.

"This will be a tough period, but the memories I have and the friends I have made over the years will be of huge support.

"Thank you to the Club and to the supporters, I’ve loved every minute."

Bath Head Coach Gary Gold said: “Mearsy is a legend, pure and simple.

"His retirement will be felt by all of us at the club, and also by the supporters who have cheered him on over the years."