LUKE FITZGERALD HAS this morning announced his retirement from professional rugby with immediate effect.

The Leinster and Ireland back has been advised on medical grounds to hang up his boots after an incident during the Pro12 final defeat to Connacht last month.

Fitzgerald missed Ireland’s summer tour of South Africa with a knee injury but a recurrence of a neck problem has forced him to retire.

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In a statement released via the province, the 28-year-old thanked his family, the club and the fans for their support. 

“I’ve had a wonderful rugby career which makes it easy for me to move on to the next stage of my life,” he said.

“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.

“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.

“I’d like to acknowledge my parents, Andrea and Des, my siblings Rachel, Rebecca, Sarah and Aaron for their incredible support throughout the course of my rugby career.

Fitzgerald has been plagued by injuries throughout his 10-year career. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

“Lastly, I’d like to wish everyone in Leinster and Irish rugby the best for the future and I look forward to taking my place in the stand supporting everyone in the future.”

After making his Leinster debut a week short of his 19th birthday in 2006, Fitzgerald’s career has been plagued by injury. He missed the most recent Six Nations campaign due to medial ligament damage and a similar injury prevented him from going to South Africa.

The former Blackrock College student won 154 caps for Leinster, 34 for Ireland and also played for the Lions on their tour of South Africa in 2009.

His final appearance in a green jersey was the heartbreaking World Cup defeat to Argentina last September.

Fitzgerald’s retirement is a second blow to Leinster head coach Leo Cullen this week after Eoin Reddan also called time on his career last weekend.

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‘For some lads it’s a foregone conclusion. For guys like me, it’s not’