JOHN Barclay has used the occasion of his retirement as a professional rugby player to raise concerns about the way the game is going in terms of business considerations taking precedence over player welfare.

The 33-year-old former Scotland captain, who had already stepped down from international rugby after last year’s World Cup, finally brought down the curtain on his 16-year club career yesterday morning via a column in The Times newspaper.

“Bizarrely, one of the things I will most miss is that feeling after a game, and the days that followed of complete physical misery,” he wrote. “The pain and suffering meant you had done something worthwhile to feel that way. But the long-term impact on the body will be felt for years to come and won’t be felt quite as fondly.

“You try to cover them up but the last few years of my rugby career were played in pain. Failed surgeries left me with broken screws in my shoulder. I have bad arthritis as the legacy of a missed broken wrist and ruptured scaphoid lunate ligament. Ask me to throw a ball and I would struggle. Broken bones, torn hamstrings, enough stitches to make a seamstress jealous. Then there were all the concussions, far too many to list. And there was the serious Achilles injury that cost me the best part of a season when I came back to Scotland from Wales. All worth it. No doubt about it; but painful all the same.”

Barclay’s senior career started out as a teenager at Glasgow Warriors, before five highly successful seasons with the Scarlets in Wales, followed by the last two seasons with Edinburgh. He picked up 76 caps for Scotland along the way.

Career highlights include playing opposite Richie McCaw in his first Test match during the 2007 World Cup, leading Scarlets to the PRO14 title in 2017 and lifting the Calcutta Cup as Scotland captain in 2018.

However, there is a sense that factors outside his control meant he did not get quite as much out of his career as his dazzling talents deserved. He was never a Lions tourist, missed almost three years of his international career after being inexplicably sent into exile by former SRU director of rugby Scott Johnson, and the Achilles injury he suffered towards the end of the 2017-18 season spelled the beginning of the end of his playing days at a point when he was in some of the best form of his life.

Barclay believes he has a lot he can still offer the game, but doubts he has the stomach to return as a coach to the hamster wheel of rolling contracts in the increasingly cut-throat business environment.

“Will I stay involved in the game that gave me so much? Gave me enough memories that some won’t make in a lifetime. I would love to. But the business side of the game makes me uncomfortable and the increasingly cut-throat approach to contracts is something I would not want to be part of,” he wrote.

“More and more, it seems that the game’s most noble, decent and worthy traditions are being cast aside as the top end of rugby becomes a harsher business in which the bottom line is everything and the welfare of those involved in it counts for little.

“We are in danger of losing the values that make our game great: family, respect and honesty. We are in danger of creating a system in which players have become components in a commercial juggernaut — to be discarded without thought once their usefulness has been exhausted. The business side of rugby has advanced at a spectacular pace and the players have been the beneficiaries undoubtedly. Better wages, tv coverage, off-field opportunities through third party sponsorship agreements all puts rugby players in a highly privileged position. But this career is short, and for the vast majority, the next step is the big one.”