Ireland international and Ulster prop Declan Fitzpatrick has announced his early retirement from rugby due to head injuries.
The 31-year-old made seven appearances for Ireland, the last of which came in the heartbreaking 22-24 defeat to New Zealand in 2013.
Fitzpatrick’s last Ulster game was the defeat to Toulon in January, and the tighthead has opted to call time on his career rather that risk another head injury having picked up a number in the past few seasons.
Touted as a long term replacement for Mike Ross, Fitzpatrick had another year to run on his IRFU contract which he signed in January 2014.
An Ulster statement read: “In recent seasons Declan experienced a number of concussive episodes. His symptoms were progressively slower to resolve and he was referred to a leading neurologist by the medical team at Ulster Rugby.
“Following tests it was recommended that it would be in his best long-term interests to stop playing.”
On his retirement, Fitzpatrick said: “”While it’s not an easy decision to hang up the boots, I can look back with fondness at nine fantastic seasons at Ulster Rugby.
“It was a huge honour to have represented my country and an enormous privilege to pull on that green shirt. I have played alongside some brilliant individuals and have made friendships that will extend long into my retirement from rugby.
“I want to thank the medical teams at Ulster Rugby and the IRFU for the care that they have given me. My symptoms continue to improve and I know the advice that I received is in the best interests of my long-term health.
“Finally, I would like to thank the staff at IRUPA who have been a great support in recent seasons and who have helped me make the transition from playing rugby to my new job as a quantity surveyor.”