Ulster and Ireland back-row Chris Henry has announced he is set to retire from rugby with immediate effect.
The 34-year-old collected 34 caps for Ireland but has decided to hang up his boots due to health concerns. The one-club man was a key player for Ireland during the 2014 Six Nations while his physicality and work-rate was a huge asset for Ulster. He wrote an open letter on the province's official website declaring rugby "has taken its toll physically".
Bryn Cunningham, Ulster's Operations Director, paid tribute to Henry in a statement. “Chris has been a fantastic ambassador for Ulster Rugby and represents all of what we stand for as an organisation."
Chris Henry Open Letter
"After a great deal of thought and in-depth discussions with family and friends, I believe that now is the right time to retire from the game I love. No matter how much I would love to finish the season with this talented group, my career has taken its toll physically, and so for the wellbeing of myself, my loving wife and my family, I will be retiring immediately.
"It’s impossible to thank everyone who has contributed to my career in this short letter, but allow me to make a start.
"I am incredibly proud to be a one-club man, and I want to thank Ulster for giving me the chance to achieve my dream. The honour of putting on the white and green jerseys is something I will always cherish. I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to have travelled all around the world doing what I love.
"Like any rugby career, there has been setbacks and knocks, however the incredible highs will forever outweigh the lows. Thank you to all the coaches, players, physiotherapists, doctors, back-room staff and fans that kept the faith in me.
"The heart and soul of rugby is teamwork, and I have had some incredible teammates over the years. To have lost Nevin Spence at such a young age had a huge impact on me and so many others. He was a source of inspiration and I have always tried to do the club proud as he did. Ulster and Irish Rugby will always remember his legacy. It has been a privilege to witness the new generation of young Ulster players come through the ranks with bucket-loads of talent and an incredible work ethic. I truly believe success is not far away.
"I want to thank every team I have been part of along the way – from Malone minis, to my school boy rugby at Wallace, senior rugby at both Ballymena and Malone, to Ulster and Ireland. I take joy in the fact my first and last game of rugby has been for Malone – 29 years apart!
"A huge thank you to my family for always being there for me. To my mum – this could never have happened without you. You and dad couldn’t have given me a better start in life and you have travelled across the world supporting me. To my brothers John and Daniel – thank you for always being my biggest fans and believing in me. We sadly lost our father William one month before my first Irish Cap but every time I put on the jersey I felt him with me. I take great happiness that he saw me lead Ulster out on many occasions and no doubt he would have enjoyed this incredible journey just as much as me. He was my best friend and we still miss him dearly.
"To my beautiful wife and soul-mate, Jade. Thank you for always supporting me during the ups and downs. I’m so excited to see what the future holds. Our family is soon to get slightly bigger and I can’t wait for this new adventure to begin!
"Finally, to the Ulster fans. Thank you for making the journey so special, and if you see me in the terraces on a Friday night, please come say hi!
Yours in rugby,