Flannery injury forces retirement
Ireland and Munster hooker Jerry Flannery has been forced to retire with immediate effect due to a back injury.
The 33-year-old won two Heineken Cup titles with Munster and he started four of Ireland's five matches in their 2009 Grand Slam triumph. Later that year, Flannery was selected for the British and Irish Lions only to be ruled out of the South Africa tour with a fractured elbow.
Flannery was sent home from the Rugby World Cup after suffering a recurrence of a long-standing calf injury and he then developed a back problem which has forced him to call time on his career.
"I'm very sad to have to announce my immediate retirement from rugby due to injury." said Flannery, who won 41 Ireland caps. "Since my injury at the 2011 World Cup, I've struggled to regain the level of fitness required to play at this level and after consulting with the medical staff at Munster and at Ireland I am announcing my retirement with immediate effect.
"I would like to thank all the medical staff who have worked so hard on my behalf and shown great patience in dealing with me. I feel incredibly privileged to have played with so many great players with Munster and with Ireland.
"To train hard and win trophies for Munster and Ireland alongside some of my best friends has been an amazing experience.
"I'm incredibly grateful for all the opportunities rugby has given me to date and I would like to thank all my friends, family, coaches and team-mates for their support along the way.
"Finally I would like to thank all the Munster and Irish rugby fans who I have been so proud to represent over the the course of my career, your level of support has been amazing and I can never thank you all enough. It's been emotional!"
Flannery's final competitive match was for Ireland in their World Cup group win against the United States last September, before injury forced him out of the tournament.
Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald described Flannery as "an example to all young players" for his dedication and for his positive attitude "through adversity when it would have been easy to seek pity".