Ireland's Heaslip hangs up his boots

Mon, 26 Feb 2018 10:39
Large jamie heaslip irenand v south africa 800

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Ireland and Leinster No.8 Jamie Heaslip has announced his decision to retire with immediate effect.

The Kildare native, who made 229 appearances for Leinster since his debut in 2005, announced his decision on Monday.

Heaslip has not played since suffering a lower back injury in the warm-up to the England Six Nations game in March 2017 which ultimately ruled him out of that game and indeed the rest of the season with Ireland and Leinster.

His last game for Leinster was a few weeks before that when he played all 80 minutes from No.8 in the 24-24 draw away to Castres in the Champions Cup.

Despite an intensive period of rehabilitation since then, he has been forced to retire from the game.

Speaking to 34-year-old Heaslip said, "A lot of players, unfortunately, don’t get the opportunity to bow out on their own terms but thankfully having taken my time and after medical advice and consultation with my wife and close family, I have taken this decision with my future well-being in mind.

"Since my rugby journey began pulling on a jersey in Naas, to Newbridge College and Dublin University, all I’ve ever wanted was to represent Leinster but I’ve been lucky enough to exceed even my own wildest dreams with a career that I am hugely proud of with Leinster, Ireland and with the British & Irish Lions.

"Playing in the blue, green and red jersey gave me some unbelievable moments, but running out in the white of Trinity in College Park or out of the RDS tunnel and into the Leinster lunatics in the Laighin Pit are memories that are just as precious to me and ones that I will miss dearly.

"I have always said that rugby is just one side to me and that there are other avenues that I am keen to explore and that opportunity has come earlier than I would have liked but I feel that I am in a good place to take that next step.

"There are too many coaches, teammates, players and people for me to mention right now but you have all played a part in my journey and I am grateful for the part played.

"I would like to thank most sincerely the doctors, the physios and the S&C team in Leinster Rugby and the IRFU for their help throughout my career but in particular over the last 12 months. No stone was left unturned by them, or I, as we sought a way back.

"To my wife Sheena, to my parents, my family and friends, thank you for your love and support.

"Finally, to the Leinster, Ireland and Lions supporters. We’ve enjoyed some incredible highs together, and indeed some lows, but it was an honour to represent you all and I hope that I have left all three jerseys in a better place,"

Heaslip made his Leinster Rugby debut in March 2005 against Neath Swansea Ospreys coming off the bench in a 12-16 loss in Donnybrook.

Since then he has added a further 228 caps to his Leinster CV, scoring 38 tries in the process and is the most capped Leinster forward of all-time.

In his time with Leinster Rugby, Heaslip won three Heineken Cups, a Challenge Cup and three Celtic League/PRO12 titles and was named the captain of the side in August 2014.

He made his Ireland debut in November 2006 against the Pacific Islands becoming the 1,000th player to pull on the green of Ireland in doing so and followed that up with his Six Nations debut in 2008 against Italy.

He has since gone on to captain Ireland and won a total of 95 caps for his country scoring 13 tries and winning three Six Nations titles including the 2009 Grand Slam.

Heaslip was twice nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year Award in 2009 and in 2016 and he won the World Rugby Try of the Year Award for his score against Italy in the 2016 6 Nations.

He was also part of two British & Irish Lions tours in 2009 and 2013 winning 12 caps and scoring two tries in the tours to South Africa and Australia.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt paid tribute to Heaslip:

"Jamie was an intelligent and incredibly robust player. The string of trophies he contributed to is lengthy, including 3 European Cups, 3 Six Nations, including the 2009 Grand Slam and a couple of Pro12 trophies thrown in for good measure.”

"There are so many moments that spring to mind, whether it be his superb second half against Northampton in the 2011 Heineken Cup final or his clever line and tireless work ethic that combined to see him score the International Try of the Year two years ago, or his crucial try-saving tackle on Stuart Hogg on ‘Super Sunday‘, to help tip the balance in retaining the Six Nations trophy.  Utterly professional, driven to succeed and a leader with the actions he delivered.”

IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora also praised Heaslip’s achievements, "Jamie was one of the top players in world rugby over the course of his 11-year international career. He achieved so much in the game but at the same time was a great example for younger players with his professionalism, dedication and application on and off the field.”

Meanwhile, IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne added "The IRFU would like to thank Jamie for his outstanding contribution to Irish Rugby.  His consistent level of high performance has helped drive the national team to unprecedented levels of success over the past 10 years.  We wish him and his wife Sheena well in the next chapter of their lives,"