'It's unthinkable... I won't play again' - Munster's Felix Jones forced into retirement at just 28
Munster full-back Felix Jones has been forced into retirement on medical grounds.
The 28-year-old joins a growing number of players like Stephen Ferris, Kevin McLaughlin and Eoin O'Malley who have been forced to hang up their boots as a result of the toll professional rugby has taken on their body.
Jones has been plagued with injuries during his career but has been forced into retirement after sustaining a neck injury in the recent Guinness Pro12 clash with Glasgow Warriors at Thomond Park.
Commenting on his early retirement, Felix 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."
Munster Head Coach Anthony Foley said "We are all hugely disappointed for Felix. He was a leading example in the way he applied himself through his commitment, work-rate and attention to detail. For a player to come in, embody everything that is Munster and have such a presence within the group he will be sorely missed on and off the field. We are very grateful for Felix's immense contribution over the last six years and wish him all the best for the future."
Munster released this video of his greatest moments for the province.
After two years at the Leinster Academy, Jones joined Shannon and Munster in 2009 and made a name for himself in the province at a very early stage.
He made his Munster debut in September, 2009 and was a first-team regular by the time the southern province claimed Magner's League silverware against rivals Leinster in 2011.
He made his international debut against Scotland in a warm-up game for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
A former Ireland U20's Grand Slam winner and 7s international Jones made 13 appearances for Ireland and was part of this year's Six Nations Championship winning squad.
The fullback also made 5 appearances for Ireland 'A' and captained the Ireland Wolfhounds against England Saxons at Irish Independent Park earlier this year.
Well respected among his peers, Jones captained Munster for the first time last season has gone on to lead the province on six successful occasions, most recently captaining the side on his final outing in Thomond Park.
Tributes have been pouring in for the full-back on 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