Johnny Sexton discovered that CJ Stander would be retiring from rugby during a meeting with his teammate and Ireland head coach Andy Farrell on Monday.
"Shocked. I didn't see it coming," said Sexton regarding the Munster player's decision.
"They called me into a meeting yesterday morning, him and Faz. It was the last thing that I thought I was getting called in for. If you gave me a thousand things to guess, it wouldn't have registered on it.
"He's done things for the right reason. His wife and daughter are back in South Africa at the moment, they have been there for a few months and they were there for the last lockdown as well. It takes its toll. He's just taken the decision based on family reasons, and we respect him for that. He's a big loss to Munster and Irish rugby."
Sexton said that he always admired the South African-born player's durability and work ethic.
"In terms of being injured, I can't remember a game he did miss," said Sexton.
"His relentless attitude, his preparation, how tough he was. I played against him numerous times and have been on the end of a few carries.
"He's got the utmost respect of anyone who's played with or against him. As a player, you want to win things but I think the older you get, you just realise that you want your own teammates to respect you and for the opposition to think, 'He's a good player'. I'm pretty sure CJ has achieved that."
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