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Jones proud of career achievements

Former Wales captain and triple Six Nations Grand Slam winner Ryan Jones has described his rugby career as "an incredible personal journey" after being forced to retire because of injury.

The 34-year-old Bristol back-row forward said in a statement that after suffering a shoulder injury three months ago and then undergoing surgery, it became clear that he could not continue playing. He steps down with immediate effect.

Jones won 75 Wales caps, featuring in three Grand Slam-winning teams and securing four Six Nations titles, while he also played in all three Tests for the 2005 British and Irish Lions against New Zealand.

After making his Test debut against South Africa in 2004 he went on to skipper his country 33 times, a record that was broken by current Wales captain Sam Warburton earlier this year.

And Warburton said on Twitter: "Congratulations @RyanJonesOnline on an amazing career. Awesome to play with and a nightmare to play against! #Legend."

Newport-born Jones, who was once a goalkeeper on Bristol City's books, took up rugby at the age of 17 and went on to establish himself among Wales' finest players, with his career including a 2008 world player of the year nomination alongside team-mate and eventual winner Shane Williams.

"Highlights of my career obviously include three Grand Slams with Wales and four league titles with the Ospreys, but I can't take a final bow without referencing the stand-off against the Haka in 2008," he said.

"It was absolute theatre, and although I never got to beat the All Blacks, I think we can claim that victory at least."

On that occasion, the Wales team led by Jones refused to budge from their positions near the halfway line after New Zealand completed their traditional pre-match routine, and it set the tone for a memorable Test match.

"The last few weeks have been emotionally tough for me," he added.

"I've had to recognise, and come to terms with, the fact that while the mind is still very willing, the body is no longer able to do what I want it to on a rugby pitch.

"After sustaining a shoulder injury in May and subsequently undergoing surgery to repair the damage, it became clear that I could no longer carry on, leaving me with little option other than to call time on what has been an incredible personal journey.

"Rugby has been a huge part of my life for the last decade and a half . There is no doubt that no longer working all week towards a big match at the weekend will leave a huge gap in my life that a few rounds of golf won't fill!

"Looking back on my career, I can say that I have enjoyed some fantastic highs, and although there were some well-documented lows along the way, the overriding feeling is one of immense pride and satisfaction."

Jones said that rugby would "continue to be a big part of my life".

"A lot of what I've actually achieved in my career hasn't just been my dream," he said. "It has been my mates' dream, my family's dream, it's everyone's dream, and so sharing it with them has been special.

"One thing that every sportsman has to face up to is retirement - it's the only inevitable thing about a sporting career. Over the last 18 months, I've been preparing for that transition, upskilling myself ready to face the next challenge in the commercial world."

Wales head coach Warren Gatland paid a glowing tribute to Jones.

"Ryan's career speaks for itself," Gatland said.

"He led his country 33 times, amassed 75 caps for Wales and won four RBS 6 Nations titles and three Grand Slams. That is a huge achievement.

"His pride and dedication for the game and his country shone through, and he was a truly great leader. He led from the front and was a role model on and off the pitch.

"It is disappointing he has announced his retirement, but he can look back on his career with pride and I am sure he will succeed in the next chapter of life."


From Belfast Telegraph