Ireland and Ulster wing Andrew Trimble has announced he will retire at the end of the season.
The 33-year-old won 70 Ireland caps between 2005 and 2017, helping Joe Schmidt’s men claim the 2014 Six Nations title.
Trimble, who made a record 229 appearances for Ulster, also featured when Ireland claimed their maiden win over New Zealand, the world champions beaten 40-29 in Chicago in November 2016.
In an open letter published by Ulster and the Irish Rugby Football Union, Trimble called time on a sparkling career that included 17 Test tries.
“I know that I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have realised not one of my dreams, but two of them – to play for Ulster and to play for Ireland,” said Trimble.
“These have been some of the most fulfilling days of my life and I feel nothing but gratitude for them.
“But there’s no way of stopping time – and I see that each day in the lives of my two young children, who are now close to beating me over five metres! So I wanted to let you know that this will be my last season playing professional rugby.
“I want to thank Ulster Rugby for allowing me the time and space to think things through before making what is probably the toughest decision that any professional sportsman will make. Most of all, I want to thank you – the loyal and dedicated supporters of this special province.
“I know that nothing will come close to the experience of taking the field and hearing you raise your voices in support of the team.
“You stood up for me. I only hope that I stood up for you.”
Ulster’s operations director Bryn Cunningham insisted Trimble should be proud of his lengthy top-level career.
“Andrew has been a class act both on and off the pitch,” said Cunningham.
“He has been a great ambassador for Ulster Rugby, having done much to promote our work in the community and to inspire future generations of rugby players from across the nine counties.
“I was still playing here when Andrew first joined the squad and it’s been fantastic to follow his journey to becoming the highest-capped Ulster player of all-time – a remarkable achievement!
“He has delivered some incredible performances in both the Ulster and Ireland jerseys over the years and he can be justifiably proud of his playing career.”
Chief executive Shane Logan offered his thanks to Trimble for proving a fine role model for both team-mates and supporters.
“I’d like to thank Andrew for his wonderful service to rugby in Ulster over the past 13 years,” said Logan.
“He has been an inspiration for so many young players across the province, due to his uncompromising playing style but also his kind nature and infectious personality.
“I know that he will continue to support Ulster and I wish him well in the years ahead.”