Guinness PRO12: Damien Varley and Rory Watts-Jones retire early
Munster and Cardiff Blues forwards announce immediate retirement on advice of medics after long-term injuries
Munster hooker Damien Varley and Cardiff Blues flanker Rory Watts-Jones have confirmed their retirement from rugby.
Varley (pictured above with team-mate Ian Keatley), who won three Ireland caps and made 121 appearances for Munster, was advised to retire after failing to overcome a left foot injury picked up at a training session in July 2013.
He was a highly regarded and talented individual, and always led by example with his attitude, professionalism and work ethic on and off the field.
The 31-year-old Garryowen man made his only Guinness PRO12 appearance this season as a replacement against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium in October, but persistent problems restricted his ability to train and play further, the club confirmed.
A consultation with a surgeon in January led to Varley’s decision to cut short his playing career and the Biomedical Engineering graduate is expected to focus on studying for an MBA, which he began recently.
“It is with great sadness that I have to announce my premature retirement,” Varley said.
“Like so many before me, I will look back at my time in Munster with immense pride and fondness, not only for the sport, but for the people that I have played with, worked with and the friendships I have made.
“I am privileged to have represented my province and country and I am hugely thankful for all the memories, and for the support I have received throughout my career.”
After a brief spell with Munster, Varley moved to Wasps at the start of the 2008/09 season, before returning to Limerick to establish himself as a key servant in the province’s successes on his way to becoming a centurion.
He started in Munster’s historic win over Australia in Thomond Park in November 2010 and their Magners League Grand Final win over rivals Leinster in May 2011.
During the 2013/14 season he captained the side on 8 occasions, leading the side against Toulon when making his first Heineken Cup semi-final start in May 2014.
“Damien’s contribution to the squad was so much more than his rugby skill-set,” said Foley.
“He was a highly regarded and talented individual, and always led by example with his attitude, professionalism and work ethic on and off the field.
“We know it has been a long road for him with this injury and although we are losing a player of his calibre we recognise all that he has done for the province and we wish him every success for the future.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Cardiff Blues confirmed that flanker Rory Watts-Jones (pictured above, being tackled by Tyrone Holmes) had also retired with immediate effect on medical advice after sustaining a concussion-related injury in November.
The 26-year-old broke through into the Blues team during the 2012/13 season, making his debut against Connacht in September 2012, going on to make a total of 31 appearances.
“I am obviously devastated after accepting medical advice that I should retire from rugby,” Watts-Jones said.
“Having put in so much to have my career cut short before I had reached my full potential is hard to take.
“Although it will take time to come to terms with my retirement, I take consolation in the fact that I was able to fulfil my childhood dream and represent my home region.
“As a professional athlete you always strive to aim higher, and I will always wonder what more I could have achieved in the game, bt I have no regrets and I am content that I gave my all in every situation; perhaps ultimately to my detriment.”
A product of Cowbridge Comprehensive School, Watts-Jones made his last appearance for the Blues against Newcastle Falcons in an LV=Cup match in November.
Watts-Jones scored the decisive try for his side at Kingston Park from a charge down as the Blues produced a stunning comeback from 21-7 down at half-time to win 22-21.
“Rory has been an important and popular member of the squad at Cardiff Blues over the last three seasons,” said Blues director of rugby, Mark Hammett.
“He has always worked tirelessly and put his body on the line for the cause.
“The medical team have worked closely with Rory and his long-term health has always been our utmost priority.
“It’s always sad to see a player retire at such a young age, but I know Rory has made the right decision for his future.
“We will continue to support him during this transitional period.
“I know everyone connected with Cardiff Blues – players, staff and supporters alike – will join me in thanking him for his services to the region and wish him every success for the future.”