Wigan full-back Michael Withers has been forced to quit the game through injury after breaking down in training, it was announced today.

Withers had planned to return to action against Wakefield in the Super League this weekend after missing 10 games with a knee problem.

The 31-year-old, who joined the Warriors from Bradford Bulls, had keyhole surgery after suffering the injury against Leeds Rhinos in April.

But a statement from Warriors today revealed Withers had been forced to retire immediately.

Head Coach Brian Noble said: "This is a crushing blow for both Michael and ourselves. He underwent knee surgery after the Leeds game back in April.

"It was hoped that the operation would be successful and he would recover in time to play for us towards the end of the season.

"Unfortunately that has not been the case although he has made a great effort to play again.

"In attempting a training session yesterday he broke down and our medical team advised him that he would now need major surgery which effectively means he cannot play again.

"Michael is devastated and so am I. I worked with him for a long time at Bradford and he has been a credit to Rugby League. Sadly we cannot argue with surgeons and it is the end of the road for Michael."

Withers said: "It's heart breaking to have to end in this way. I now need another operation which is similar to the one that Andy Farrell had some years ago and it involves fracturing the knee to overcome the problem.

"It would be a year before I would be right again and even then it would involve great care. I think Kris Radlinski as well as Andy Farrell went through the same problem. I will be visiting the same surgeon and hope to have the operation this week.

"I would like to thank the Wigan club and especially the medical team who have worked so hard to help me. I am just so sorry that their efforts have been unrewarded.

"Wigan is a great club and I'm sure they have a bright future. I'm so sorry not to be part of it."

Chairman Maurice Lindsay added: "We feel so sorry for Michael. He is immensely popular with the players and it is sad and frustrating that a great career has come to an end in these circumstances.

"It just shows what a tough and unrewarding sport Rugby League can sometimes be. We thank Michael for the effort he has made to get back into the game but his own health must come first."

Withers made his Wigan debut in the 16-10 defeat by Warrington at the JJB Stadium on February 9.

He scored 108 tries in 170 games for Bradford and is also one of the few players to have scored a hat-trick in a Grand Final.

Withers was born in Australia but represented Ireland in the 2000 World Cup.