Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris forced to retire at 28 with ankle injury
Last Updated: 03/06/14 4:17pm
Ireland and British and Irish Lions back-row forward Stephen Ferris has been forced to retire from rugby at the age of just 28 because of an ankle injury.
Ferris won 35 caps for Ireland and played in all five games of their famous 2009 Grand Slam campaign, as well as at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
His last cap for Ireland came against England in the Six Nations in March 2012 but an injury suffered playing for Ulster against Edinburgh in November 2012 ultimately proved to be end his career.
Ferris spent 16 months on the sidelines after the injury and was restricted to just three more appearances after attempting to return to action.
"It is every young rugby player's dream to represent their Province and their country and I have been enormously privileged to have done both," said Ferris, who made the squad for the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa.
"I have shared a pitch with so many talented players over the past nine years and I want to thank my team-mates at Ulster and Ireland for the support that they have given me.
"I also want to thank the IRFU as well as the strength and conditioning coaches and medical team at Ulster Rugby, for all their hard work, patience and backing over the past year-and-a-half.
"I have had a great career, met many wonderful people and I hang up the boots with no regrets."
Ferris came through the Ulster academy and made his debut for the province in 2005 as a 20-year-old, and quickly established himself as an automatic pick in the back row.
He helped Ulster to the 2012 Heineken Cup final, where they lost to Leinster, and made what proved to be his final appearance in this season's 17-15 quarter-final defeat by Saracens.
Ulster director of rugby David Humphreys had nothing but praise for Ferris' contribution.
"We knew from the day and hour that he walked into the academy that he was an exceptional talent. Through dedication and hard work he developed into one of the best forwards in the world game," said Humphreys.
"He has always played an important leadership role within the squad and he helped mentor and inspire others.
"While we are sorry to be losing Stephen, we recognise and celebrate the exceptional rugby career that he has had and wish him every success in the future."