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Published: 08:32 | 28/6/16

Fitzgerald retires from rugby

Leinster and Ireland back Luke Fitzgerald has announced his retirement from rugby on medical grounds.

Fitzgerald has battled a number of serious injuries in recent years and he has been advised to retire on the back of the neck injury he suffered in the Guinness PRO12 final defeat to Connacht.

"I've had a wonderful rugby career which makes it easy for me to move on to the next stage of my life. It's been an amazing journey in which I got to experience the highs and lows that come with professional sport and I have learned a huge amount from each experience. I'm now building on that foundation through completing my business degree," Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Fitzgerald made his Leinster debut in September 2006 against Edinburgh and went on to make a further 17 appearances for the province that season,

An impressive debut season with Leinster resulted in him being handed his first Ireland cap for the 61-17 win over Pacific Islands in November 2006. In total he won 34 caps for his country and was also a member of the 2009 Grand Slam-winning team, while he played for the British and Irish Lions squad on their tour of South Africa in 2009.

At provincial level, the former Blackrock College student made 154 appearances for Leinster, winning three Heineken Cups, a Challenge Cup and three PRO12 titles with Leinster.

"I'm very thankful for the opportunities I have had, the people with whom I've worked and the lifelong friends I have made. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the medical staff and coaches I've worked with throughout my career and at Blackrock College. It's been an honour and a privilege to represent my province, my country and the British & Irish Lions during my career and I'm glad to finish my career as a 'one club man'" Fitzgerald added.

"The support I got whilst playing for all three teams during the good times and the tough times is something I'll cherish and never forget for the rest of my life.

"I'd like to acknowledge my parents, Andrea and Des, my siblings Rachel, Rebecca, Sarah and Aaron for their incredible support throughout the course of my rugby career.

"Lastly, I'd like to wish everyone in Leinster and Irish rugby the best for the future and I look forward to taking my place in the stand supporting everyone in the future."

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admits he is gutted at the news that Fitzgerald has been forced to call time on his career.

"I actually coached Luke before I ever became a team mate of his, when I helped out with the Blackrock College Senior team in 2004. Although I spent the majority of my time with the forwards, you could clearly see even then as a fourth year, that Luke was a special talent.

"I was lucky enough to have played with Luke from 2007 until I retired in 2014 and have spent the last couple of seasons coaching him.

"We are all gutted here at Leinster to hear that Luke has had to retire from the game. He has had an incredible career achieving almost everything there is to achieve in rugby. He will go down as one of the greatest wingers to have represented Leinster and Ireland.

"We will miss him greatly but we wish him every success in the next phase of his life. He will be a tremendous asset to wherever he focusses his efforts.

"We look forward to welcoming Luke and his family to the RDS in the season and the seasons ahead.”

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