'Felix Jones was unbelievably popular and that's a great legacy to leave' - Alan Quinlan
Former Munster and Ireland flanker Alan Quinlan has paid tribute to 28-year-old Felix Jones who was forced into early retirement due to a neck injury.
Irish rugby has been plunged into shock at the news that Jones, 13-times capped with Ireland, has had to call it a day after an injury suffered in the recent clash with the Glasgow Warriors at Thomond Park in the Guinness Pro12.
In the space of two months, Jones has gone from narrowly missing out on Ireland's Rugby World cup squad to hanging up his boots.
Speaking on Game On on 2FM, Quinlan described the willpower which made Jones such a terrific competitor and team mate.
"For any sportsperson to have to give up because of injury is very difficult. You can't prepare for it. It's a shock," he said
"He's had a fair few serious injuries which have been tough on him. I see a lot of guys who I played with at Munster like Ian Dowling and Denis Leamy who had to give up and who had so much more in front of them and Felix is the same.
"The one thing about Felix Jones, his application was incredible, his work ethic, his popularity within the group, with any team he was involved in, I've looked at social media today and I've looked at the tributes coming in and for me it was a privilege and honour to play with the guy.
"I loved watching him train, I loved watching him go into the gym and apply himself. He's one of these guys who knew nothing else but 100pc and maybe that's what cost him a little bit.
"He pushed himself to the limit... he knew no other way. That was just in his DNA. He was the nicest, most gentle guy you could meet off a rugby field.
"He was quite slight when he came down first and he had to work on that.
"He was unbelievably popular and that's a great legacy to leave. It's really nice that when something like this happens, there are genuine comments coming from your peer... guys you played with and against.
"He's had a few major disappointments but he can be very proud of the effort levels and that's all you can ask from any sportsperson. I know that whatever he does, whether it's rugby coaching, whether he goes and gets a job... he'll be successful because he has that drive and commitment."
On his own retirement, Jones said: "It is still unthinkable to believe I will never play another game of rugby.
"Although I have tried to round myself as an individual through education and other interests, I have always had one driving purpose in my life and that was to play rugby. I'm grateful I could do that in Munster. That feeling of walking out the tunnel in front of a packed Thomond Park is something I will never forget. To accept I will not play with my teammates again is beyond upsetting. I'm lucky to have played with so many great players, but rugby has given me something better and that is the people who are now life-long friends.
"I thank all the coaches I have been lucky enough to learn from and I look forward to seeing the development of our squad over the coming seasons. The guidance I have received from the medical teams in Munster and Ireland has been unfaltering. I would also like to acknowledge the consultants I have dealt with here and further abroad.
"I'm indebted to everyone who has helped me throughout my career from Seapoint my home club, Old Belvedere, Shannon and all the way up to representing Ireland. Without doubt the proudest moment of my career was being given the privilege to win my first cap for my country.
"It would be remiss of me not to mention the extensive support I have received from IRUPA not only at this moment in time but throughout my career also. I would encourage all players to engage with their players union.
"Finally, I would like to thank my family and close friends for their undying support on and off the pitch. I will draw upon this over the coming weeks as the situation presents itself as a nervous yet exciting junction in my life."
Tributes have been pouring in social media:
Gutted for @FelixJones15 incredible professional. Always had your back and nothing was ever too big for him to throw himself at.— Johne Murphy (@MurphyJohne) October 28, 2015
Felix Jones a massive loss to @Munsterrugby wishing Felix the best in whatever his future holds— Sylvester Hennessy (@Slyone1069) October 28, 2015
Gutted to hear the news of @FelixJones15 retiring.A player i'd always look to get the ball to whn playing alongside & avoid whn opposing him— Ian madigan (@Ian_madigan) October 28, 2015
Sad to see @FelixJones15 forced into a premature retirement. One of the nicest guys around. And worked like no other. Pleasure jonesy.— James Downey (@jamesdowney23) October 28, 2015
Very sad to see @FelixJones15 having to retire - the ultimate professional who was very much respected by his fellow professionals!— Rob Kearney (@KearneyRob) October 28, 2015
Sad to see Felix Jones join the list of early retirees. Such a shame, he had a great career but injuries robbed him of so much.— Rúaidhrí O'Connor (@RuaidhriOC) October 28, 2015
Gutted for Felix Jones being forced to retire from rugby. Excellent player and a very nice guy. #Munster— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) October 28, 2015
Gutted to hear that @FelixJones15 has been forced to retire due to injury. Dreadfully unlucky.— Mark O'Beirne (@Sabre0001) October 28, 2015
Disappointing to see Felix Jones retire. Always committed & hard-working, him retiring at only 28 is sad to see. Best of luck @FelixJones15— Jonathan Fitzpatrick (@jfitz92) October 28, 2015
Very sad to hear the news of @FelixJones15 forced early retirement - a true great for Munster, Ireland and Shannon...— Shannon RFC (@shannonrfc) October 28, 2015
Sometimes sport can be so unfair. Heart goes out to @FelixJones15. Great player for both his country and his province.— Jenny Murphy (@jennymurphy045) October 28, 2015
Sad to hear Munster's @FelixJones15 has had to retire on medical advice, after a neck injury sustained v Glasgow. Fine player. Best of luck— Rugby World (@Rugbyworldmag) October 28, 2015
Crazy to think how close Felix Jones was to making the World Cup squad and a few weeks later has to retire. Sport at its cruellest.— Cian Tracey (@CianTracey1) October 28, 2015