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Ruddock To Retire At End Of The Season

Ruddock To Retire At End Of The Season

Rhys Ruddock played 27 times for Ireland between 2010 and 2021, and captained his country on seven occasions ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Rhys Ruddock has announced that he will retire at the end of this season. The 33-year-old, who captained Ireland at Under-20 and senior level, won 27 Test caps and has played over 200 times for Leinster.

Ruddock will call time on a glittering career once Leinster’s current season draws to a close in the coming weeks.

The vastly-experienced back rower made his debut for the province in December 2009, wearing the number 6 jersey against the Dragons, and since then has been a key member of the back row ranks, and on occasion the second row, for Michael Cheika, Joe Schmidt, Matt O’Connor, and Leo Cullen.

Less than a year after his Leinster debut, he pulled on a senior Ireland jersey for the first time, against Australia in the summer of 2010. He was just 19 when called up as an injury replacement for their tour Down Under.

His leadership qualities have also shone over many years. He captained the Ireland U-20s to a Six Nations title and went on to skipper both Leinster and Ireland at senior level. Indeed, against Aironi in February 2011, Ruddock became the youngest ever Leinster captain when only 20 years of age.

Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie this afternoon, Ruddock said: “This has been an incredibly difficult decision to make. To retire from playing the game you love isn’t easy, however after 15 years of professional rugby, I feel the time is right for me now and I’m excited for the next chapter.

“Supporting the Leinster team in Donnybrook as an eight-year-old, while my dad was coach, I could only have dreamed about putting on a Leinster jersey myself. To go on to play my whole career with this team has been a dream come true.

“Leinster has been such a huge part of my life. I have made some of my best friends here, with team-mates past and present, and had the privilege to be coached by, and work with, the most amazing group of people.

To have had the opportunity to captain both Leinster and Ireland has been an incredible honour and is something I will always treasure and look back on with pride.

“I am hugely appreciative of the support the fans have given us over the years and have always felt privileged to represent you.

“To everyone who has helped me on my rugby journey, but in particular, to Mumbles RFC, UCD, St. Mary’s, and of course in Leinster Rugby. To the players, the coaches, the medics, staff and the supporters, thank you.

“I couldn’t have done any of it without the unwavering support of my family. To my mum and dad, Bernadette and Mike, to Katie, Ciarán, and to my partner Caoimhe, thank you all so much for the support through the good days and the bad. It wouldn’t have been possible without you all in my corner.

“It’s been one hell of a journey so far. So many incredible memories made and friendships built. I’m looking forward to giving everything I can to help this team finish this season on a high.”

Since his Leinster debut in 2009, Ruddock has been part of six URC title-winning squads, three Champions Cup title wins, and a Challenge Cup success. He was also named on the PRO12 Team of the Year in 2014.

With Ireland, he was a Six Nations winner in 2014 and played in both the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cup tournaments.

Leinster head coach Cullen paid tribute to Ruddock today, saying: “The Ruddock family have played a huge role in the evolution of Leinster Rugby in the professional era.

“Rhys’ father Mike was our first full-time professional coach, and Rhys was a young boy back in 1997 when I first laid eyes on him! He certainly grew up quickly representing Ireland first when he was only 19.

I was lucky enough to both play with and coach Rhys. He has been a fantastic player and role model to so many others during his time with Leinster.

“He has amazing leadership qualities and is a great competitor who has shown a deep care for so many of his team-mates during his distinguished career.

“We would like to wish Rhys and all the Ruddock family every success for the future.”