Ulster flanker David Pollock has been forced to retire.
Hailed as a future international open side and possible Irish captain when he broke through as a professional, the 23-year-old’s career has been ended by a hip injury.
For 18 months he has worked in a bid to regain fitness, but yesterday he conceded that it was a battle he was unable to win.
A natural open side at a time when they are few and far between, the 6’2”, 16st 5lb back row forward was two years into a medical degree when he was offered a full-time rugby career by Ulster.
Now, with his playing career over, he plans to resume those studies.
Pollock signed a development contract in October 2006. He won Vodafone Young Ulster Player of the Year in 2007 and was selected as a member of the IRFU High Performance Select Group.
Not surprisingly he was offered a full Ulster contract at the start of the 2007-08 campaign.
It was fitting reward for the Omagh-born, Royal School Dungannon-educated player who captained Ireland under-19s and under-21s in their respective 2006 IRB World Championships before leading Ireland under-20s to an unprecedented Grand Slam and Six Nations double in 2007.
Pollock went on to win five Ireland ‘A’ caps and was widely regarded as Munster’s David Wallace’s international replacement-in-waiting for Declan Kidney’s side.
Pollock, who made his Ulster debut off the bench against the Ospreys in 2007, went on to win 45 caps for his province.
As a 21-year-old, he captained the province for the first time in a November 2008 friendly against Portugal, a match the young Ulster side won 62-6 thanks in no small measure to the contribution to another 21-year-old, Man-of-the-Match Darren Cave, who scored four tries.
Yesterday Pollock said: “It is with great sadness that I announce my early retirement from rugby.
“Whilst it was always my intention to resume my studies at Queen’s, I never intended it to be quite so soon.
“My hip injury, however, has not resolved and I have been advised I am no longer able to achieve the level of fitness required to play professional rugby.
“I count myself very fortunate to have represented Ulster at every level, from schoolboy to senior team and leading out Ulster in the Heineken Cup against Stade Francais in Paris was one of the proudest moments of my rugby career.”
Reflecting on what the game had meant to him, he continued: “Rugby with Ulster has afforded me the privilege to play with and against many great players.
“Whilst doing so I have forged friendships and acquired memories that I will treasure for a long time to come.
“I will miss playing rugby and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have helped me throughout my career from my years at RSD to the present day.”
Pollock was a big favourite with the crowd and his thoughts on that matter were: “I will especially miss the warm reception that we, the players, get at Ravenhill from the best set of supporters in the Magners League.”
And he vowed to become one of those supporters when he added: “I wish the team well for the rest of the season and in the years ahead.
“I will be cheering them on from the promenade.”
Ulster Operations Director David Humphreys said: “Ear-marked from an early age as a future Ulster captain, David’s injury problems in recent years means that we only saw glimpses of his talent in the Ulster shirt.
“His retirement is a huge loss for Ulster Rugby but, fortunately for David, he has a long-term future mapped out in the medical profession and a new challenge awaits him away from rugby.”