Wed 26 Mar 2014 | 10:55
South African Wilkinson to retire
Wed 26 Mar 2014 | 10:55
South African Wilkinson to retireSHARE
Connacht loosehead prop Brett Wilkinson has been forced into retirement due to a serious neck injury sustained in the last game he played for the club.
The 30-year-old South African has been with Connacht since 2006 and has played 183 times for the province.
Commenting on the news, Brett said: "It has, of course, come as a big shock for me that I have to retire so suddenly. I'm devastated that I won't play again but the nature of my injury was very serious and I have to appreciate that I have my health."
The former Ireland 'A' prop damaged a ligament in the upper part of his neck during Connacht's Heineken Cup game away to Saracens in January. Following two medical consultations, he has been directed to cease contact sport with immediate effect.
He will wear a neck brace continuously for three months to stabilise the damage and rule out the need for surgery.
"It's strange to find myself in this situation but I've had time to get over the initial shock and now I am just really grateful for all the opportunities I've had through rugby," he continued
"I'd like to thank my fiancée Patrice and my family and friends, both here in Ireland and in South Africa, for their constant support. My team mates at Connacht, former and present, are some of the best friends I have and the memories of sharing the highs and lows of professional sport with them is something I'll have forever.
"My whole rugby career has been with this club and I've witnessed some massive changes but one thing remains and that is the decent people here. Connacht has been building and building every year and while I'm sad I won't be a part of it in the same way anymore, I'm excited to follow its progress as a supporter and friend.
"While I haven't had a whole lot of time to think about what to do next, I know that I will be in Ireland. I've been involved in coaching at club level around the province and it's something I've really enjoyed and would like to explore further.
Dan McFarland, Connacht Assistant & Forwards Coach said: "Brett has been a tremendous asset to Connacht Rugby over the last eight years. It is extremely unfortunate for him and the province that an injury should curtail his career.
"He arrived as an unheralded but talented club player and managed through hard work and perseverance to deservedly wear the number one jersey for a long time. I have really enjoyed working with him, am very sad to see him finish but am certain whatever path he chooses will lead him to success."
Head Coach Pat Lam added: "From the moment I arrived here, I was able to recognise Brett as a true 'team man'. He is not afraid of hard work and he represents what it is to be a Connacht man and wear the Connacht jersey.
"The work he did this season with Dan and the coaches to improve his game was phenomenal and he has been so reliable for us on and off the pitch. While I am extremely disappointed for him at this time, I am also very relieved that he is fit and healthy beyond rugby.
Wilkinson joined Connacht in 2006 from the University of Cape Town.
Hailing from Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, Brett began playing rugby, from the age of 8. It was his performances for his school which led to him being singled out for a scholarship to the University of Cape Town.
He represented the Ireland Wolfhounds on five occasions and played for Ireland in an uncapped friendly with the Barbarians before embarking on the senior tour to New Zealand in of 2012.