Jamie Heaslip, who played on 229 occasions for Leinster Rugby, and was a winner of 95 Ireland caps, has announced his immediate retirement from rugby on medical advice.
The 34 year-old number 8 became the 1,000th player to wear the green jersey when he made his Ireland debut in November 2006 in a 61-17 victory over the Pacific Islanders. He made his Six Nations debut against Italy in 2008 and captained the national side 13 times, playing the full 80 minutes on 72 occasions. He scored 13 tries for his country, including the World Rugby Try of the Year against Italy in 2016, and was twice nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year Award in 2009 and in 2016.
The Naas man made his provincial debut against Ospreys in 2005, coming off the bench in a 12-16 loss. He went on to make 229 appearances for Leinster Rugby, scoring 38 tries and is Leinster’s most capped forward of all-time.
In a glittering career with Leinster, Heaslip won three Heineken Cups, a Challenge Cup and three Celtic League/PRO12 titles and was named captain of the side in August 2014.
Heaslip was a key member of Declan Kidney’s 2009 Grand Slam-winning side and was an integral part of Ireland’s Six Nations title-winning teams of 2014 and 2015.
He played his part in securing Ireland’s first ever win over the Springboks on South African soil in 2016 and featured prominently in Ireland’s historic victory over New Zealand in Chicago. Heaslip played at two Rugby World Cups, featuring in all 10 of Ireland’s games at the 2011 and 2015 tournaments.
A two time British & Irish Lion, Heaslip made five Test appearances and scored two tries in the tours to South Africa (2009) and Australia (2013) respectively.
The back row’s last Irish appearance was against Wales in the 2017 Six Nations Championship in Cardiff. He suffered a lower back injury in the warm up to the Ireland v England 6 Nations game in March 2017 which ruled him out of all rugby for the rest of the season.
Jamie Heaslip’s retirement statement:
“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.
“Since my rugby journey began pulling on a jersey in Naas, to Newbridge College and Dublin University, 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.
“Playing in the blue, green and red jersey gave me some unbelievable moments, but running out in the white of Trinity in College Park or out of the RDS tunnel and into the Leinster lunatics in the Laighin Pit are memories that are just as precious to me and ones that I will miss dearly.
“I have always said that rugby is just one side to me and that there are other avenues that I am keen to explore and that opportunity has come earlier than I would have liked but I feel that I am in a good place to take that next step.
“There are too many coaches, team mates, 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.”
Leinster Rugby Head Coach Leo Cullen said on hearing of Jamie Heaslip’s immediate retirement from the game:
“We are all saddened by the news that Jamie is retiring from the game after sustaining an injury before the Ireland against England game last March. What separated Jamie was his attention to detail, his desire to continuously improve, his work rate and his fierce competitive instincts when he was on the field. Jamie wanted to win and that meant the standard of what his team mates was delivering had to get better also.”
Cullen concluded by saying:
“His durability over the course of a long career was testament to how he lived his life as a professional athlete, and he managed to squeeze an incredible amount into the time he had as a rugby player. Jamie, congratulations on what has been a truly remarkable career. Thank you for raising the bar at Leinster and for pushing us all to be better.”
Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt praised Heaslip’s contribution to Irish rugby, stating:
“Jamie was an intelligent and incredibly robust player. The string of trophies he contributed to is lengthy, including three European Cups, three Six Nations, including the 2009 Grand Slam, and a couple of PRO12 trophies thrown in for good measure.
“There are so many moments that spring to mind, whether it be his superb second half against Northampton in the 2011 Heineken Cup final or his clever line and tireless work ethic that combined to see him score the international Try of the Year two years ago, or his crucial try-saving tackle on Stuart Hogg on ‘Super Saturday’, to help tip the balance in retaining the Six Nations trophy. Utterly professional, driven to succeed and a leader with the actions he delivered.”