Ex-Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip announces retirement from rugby

Jamie Heaslip made 95 appearances for Ireland, and five for the British & Irish Lions during an 11-year international career. Phil Walter/Getty Images

Former Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip has announced his retirement from rugby following a long battle with injury.

Heaslip played 95 times for his country -- captaining them on 13 occasions -- while he also won five caps for the British & Irish Lions across two tours.

The No. 8 has not played since injuring his back in the warm-up to Ireland's final game of the 2017 Six Nations, against England at the Aviva Stadium.

He has undergone an intense rehabilitation programme since suffering that knock but has not made it back onto the pitch, and has now been forced to retire.

"A lot of players unfortunately don't get the opportunity to bow out on their own terms but thankfully having taken my time and after medical advice and consultation with my wife and close family, I have taken this decision with my future well-being in mind," Heaslip told Leinster's website.

"All I've ever wanted was to represent Leinster but I've been lucky enough to exceed even my own wildest dreams with a career that I am hugely proud of with Leinster, Ireland and with the British & Irish Lions."

During a glittering 13-year professional career, Heaslip, 34, helped Ireland to three Six Nations championship wins, including the Grand Slam in 2009.

He also played at two Rugby World Cups and on a domestic front helped Leinster win three European Cup crowns as many PRO12 titles and the Challenge Cup in 2013.

He added: "There are too many coaches, teammates, players and people for me to mention right now but you have all played a part in my journey and I am grateful for the part played.

"I would like to thank most sincerely the doctors, the physios and the S&C team in Leinster Rugby and the IRFU for their help throughout my career but in particular over the last 12 months. No stone was left unturned by them, or I, as we sought a way back.

"To my wife Sheena, to my parents, my family and friends, thank you for your love and support.

"Finally, to the Leinster, Ireland and Lions supporters. We've enjoyed some incredible highs together, and indeed some lows, but it was an honour to represent you all and I hope that I have left all three jerseys in a better place."

The IRFU released its own statement thanking Heaslip for his contribution to Irish rugby. Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said: "[Heaslip was] utterly professional, driven to succeed and a leader with the actions he delivered."