Irish rugby legend Paul O'Connell has announced his retirement. The 36-year-old lock suffered a serious hamstring injury during last year's Rugby World Cup and he has been unable to make a full recovery.
The former Irish captain had been working towards a return to competitive action, but O'Connell has been forced to admit defeat in his fitness battle. Consequently, his contract with French club Toulon has been cancelled without him playing a game.
"It is with deep regret that I have decided to retire from professional rugby following medical advice. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all at [Toulon] for their understanding and support over the past few months," O'Connell said to the Irish Rugby official website.
"Since sustaining the injury at the World Cup I have been fully focused on returning to fitness and starting an exciting new chapter for both myself and my family in Toulon. Unfortunately this will no longer be possible."
The former Munster player took the time to thank those people who have supported him through his 14-year career. "I have been blessed to be a professional rugby player for over 14 years and to be part of Munster and Ireland teams that have experienced success," he said. "I have played with some of the best players to ever line out in the red of Munster and the green of Ireland and have had the privilege of captaining my country.
"I would like to thank those at Young Munster RFC, Munster Rugby, the IRFU and Lions Rugby who have supported me over the course of my playing career. Special thanks must go to my wife Emily for her unwavering support through the good and the bad and to my parents Michael and Shelagh.
"Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who has supported the teams I have been a part of. The support you have shown me is humbling and an immense source of pride for both myself and my family."
O'Connell played for his country 108 times, and won seven caps for the British and Irish Lions. He also achieved two Heineken Cup successes with Munster, as well as three Six Nations titles with Ireland.