MARK Skirving, Stockton Rugby Club's longest-serving captain, has been forced to retire because of a back injury. He has been with the club for 25 years since joining the mini section as a five-year-old.

He played for the colts for three seasons, making his debut in September 1997. He played a few games at fly half but became a goal-kicking second row, the position in which he became established in the first team.

He made his senior debut in 2001 under the captaincy of Alan Brown, packing down alongside John Saunders.

"I remember my debut was a home game against Wigton in North One," he said "I was particularly nervous as I was still a colt and the 1st XV had some big characters. After the first scrum, John told me that if I bound on his shorts again he would knock me out."

Skirving was appointed first team captain in 2006/07 and led the side until the end of the 2012/13 season, despite needing regular injections in his back.

Stockton chairman Graham Newton said: "Mark has been a great leader for the club for over a decade and will be greatly missed in the side. His loyalty to the club speaks volumes as he has had many opportunities to leave and play at a higher level."