Stephen Ferris announces his retirement from rugby at 28
A recurring ankle injury has forced Ulster and Ireland star Stephen Ferris to retire from rugby.
Ulster's Grand Slam-winning star, just 28, has made only four brief appearances for the province since damaging his ankle in November 2012.
He was handed a short-term deal halfway though this season when it seemed likely that he would be able to make a playing comeback, which he did in March against Scarlets.
Ferris had hinted at a move to Japan last summer before securing a short-term IRFU deal but, after the most recent final extension, his employers were reluctant to repeat the offer.
After appearing briefly in the Heineken Cup defeat to Saracens last month, Ferris suffered another setback which ruled him out of contention for the rest of this season.
The 28 year-old won 35 caps for Ireland and made 106 appearances for Ulster.
Commenting on his retirement, Ferris said: “It is every young rugby player’s dream to represent their Province and their country and I have been enormously privileged to have done both.
“I have shared a pitch with so many talented players over the past nine years and I want to thank my team-mates at Ulster and Ireland for the support that they have given me.
“I also want to thank the IRFU as well as the strength and conditioning coaches and medical team at Ulster Rugby, for all their hard work, patience and backing over the past year and a half.
“Finally, I would like to thank my family – my mum Linda and my dad Robert who helped me on the journey from playing rugby as a young kid at Portadown to lining out for the British and Irish Lions. My girlfriend Laura has been and remains a constant source of inspiration and encouragement.
“I have had a great career, met many wonderful people and I hang up the boots with no regrets.”
Ulster’s Director of Rugby, David Humphreys, said: “I would like to thank Stephen for the outstanding contribution that he has made to Ulster Rugby.
“We knew from the day and hour that he walked into the Academy that he was an exceptional talent. Through dedication and hard work he developed into one of the best forwards in the world game.
“He has always played an important leadership role within the squad and he helped mentor and inspire others.
“While we are sorry to be losing Stephen, we recognise and celebrate the exceptional rugby career that he has had and wish him every success in the future.”
Ferris was a standout performer at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and played in all five games of Ireland’s 2009 Grand Slam success.
That same year he was selected for the British and Irish Lions Tour of South Africa and scored two tries before injury prevented him from claiming a Test place. He won his last cap for Ireland, against England, in the RBS 6 Nations in March 2012.