Leinster Rugby can this morning confirm that Luke Fitzgerald has announced his retirement from professional rugby with immediate effect.
As a result of an incident in the Guinness PRO12 Final against Connacht, the 28 year old Leinster, Ireland and British & Irish Lions back suffered a neck injury and has been advised to retire on medical grounds.
Fitzgerald has asked for privacy during this time and will be making no further statement to media apart from his quote below.
Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie, Fitzgerald said, "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.
"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'.
"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."
Former Blackrock College student Fitzgerald made his Leinster debut in September 2006 against Edinburgh. He would go on to make a further 17 appearances for Leinster in his debut season including three off the bench in the Heineken Cup. He would also score his maiden try in the Heineken Cup against Edinburgh in Murrayfield.
On the back of these performances in blue and only months after finishing his Leaving Certificate, Fitzgerald made his debut for Ireland against the Pacific Islands in November 2006 in a 61-17 win in Lansdowne Road.
Over the course of his career he would go on to win 154 caps for Leinster, 34 for Ireland – the same number as his father Des won as a prop with Ireland – and also played for the British & Irish Lions in their tour of South Africa in 2009. Most recently he was a part of the Ireland Rugby World Cup squad and scored a try in the Quarter-Final defeat to Argentina.
Fitzgerald's achievements include a 6 Nations title with Ireland in 2015 and a Grand Slam in 2009 where he started every game on the wing. He also won three Heineken Cups, a Challenge Cup and three PRO12 titles with Leinster.
Leinster Rugby Head Coach Leo Cullen: "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.”
Luke Fitzgerald Factfile:
DOB: 13 September 1987
Club: Blackrock College RFC
Leinster Caps: 154 (32 tries)
Leinster Debut: 8 September 2006 v Edinburgh, Murrayfield
Ireland Caps: 34 (4 tries)
Ireland Debut: 26 November 2006 v Pacific Islands, Lansdowne Road
British & Irish Lions Caps: 1 (27 June 2009 v South Africa)