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Ireland back Fitzgerald forced to retire

Ireland international Luke Fitzgerald has announced his retirement from professional rugby at the age of 28 due to a neck injury.

Fitzgerald, a versatile back who played 34 Tests for Ireland and one for the British and Irish Lions in 2009, was ruled out of his country's recent tour of South Africa due to a knee issue.

However, a long-standing problem - which prompted Fitzgerald to state "there's no one else playing the game professionally with the neck injury I have" during last year's World Cup - has brought a premature end to the Leinster player's career.

In a statement on Leinster's official website, he said: "'I've had a wonderful rugby career, which makes it easy for me to move on to the next stage of my life.

"It's been an amazing journey in which I got to experience the highs and lows that come with professional sport and I have learned a huge amount from each experience. I'm now building on that foundation through completing my business degree.

"I'm very thankful for the opportunities I have had, the people with whom I've worked and the lifelong friends I have made. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the medical staff and coaches I've worked with throughout my career and at Blackrock College.

"It's been an honour and a privilege to represent my province, my country and the British & Irish Lions during my career and I'm glad to finish my career as a 'one club man'.

"The support I got whilst playing for all three teams during the good times and the tough times is something I'll cherish and never forget for the rest of my life."

Fitzgerald made his international debut in 2006, a week before his 19th birthday, and went on to earn the same number of Ireland caps as his father Des, a prop forward.