Former Ulster fan favourite Nick Williams has announced his retirement from rugby at the age of 36.
The former Junior All Black revitalised his career after arriving in Belfast after stints with Munster and Aironi, winning Pro12 Player of the Season and IRUPA Players' Player of the Year in his first season.
After four seasons, the burly number eight left for Cardiff in 2016 and has represented the Blues with similar distinction ever since. While he'd hoped to have a farewell appearance for the Welsh side to bow out, it has ultimately proved not to be.
“It’s sad not to have had one last run out at the Arms Park but with Covid-19, and everything that has come with it, there have been much bigger things to worry about," he said. "It is what it is.
“I have been blessed to play this game for so long and could never have imagined I would be a professional for 16 years and travel to so many brilliant places around the world.
“When I arrived in Cardiff, I knew this would be my last club and I have tried to make the most out of every single minute. It has been a really special time and the welcome my family received has been unbelievable.
“Winning the European Challenge Cup a couple of years ago is an obvious highlight but I will also just miss the day to day and being with the boys around the place.
“I am so grateful and have nothing but love for everyone at the Arms Park, from teammates and coaches, to the brilliant staff and sponsors, who have also been great to me, and of course the awesome fans. It has been a hell of a ride and I’m grateful to all the teams I have been part of."
Williams, the cousin of All Black star Sonny Bill Williams, added that, while he'd loved to have carried on playing, family must come first.
“If I could carry on playing then I would but the game has taken its toll and my wife has already sacrificed so much," he said. "I’m now looking forward to the next chapter with my family.
“We are settled here now, this is our home and I’m looking forward to sharing a beer with some of the supporters on the terrace when we get back to the Arms Park.”
Meanwhile, the Six Nations have confirmed that Ireland's concluding fixture of the 2020 Championship will be an 8pm kick-off in Paris.
Ireland had been set to face the French, in what could yet be a title showdown, back in March but the sporting shutdown has seen the fixture rearranged for October 31.
First, with no kick-off time yet set, they will have to get past Italy in Dublin one week prior knowing that they'll likely need a maximum haul from their two remaining games to bring a championship for Andy Farrell in his prolonged first season since taking over from Joe Schmidt last November.