Scarlets prop Thomas forced to retire

Scarlets Prop Iestyn Thomas has announced that he will retire from rugby at the end of this season after 10 seasons with his region.

Thomas, 35, who has appeared 214 times in a Scarlets shirt, with 60 points for his regional club is one of Wales’ most experienced props and one of the strongest scrummaging looseheads in the Welsh game.

He is one of three players in the squad with more than 200 appearances alongside Stephen Jones (315 appearances) and fellow prop Phil John (229).

Vice-captain of the Scarlets team this season, he has been the cornerstone of the Scarlets pack for the past decade. Thomas started his rugby career with his hometown club of Pontypool RFC then moving to top division Ebbw Vale which was then under former Wales Head Coach Mike Ruddock.

He joined the Scarlets in 2002 and has an impressive has an impressive line of rugby honours to his name which includes 33 caps for Wales after making his debut in this country’s victory against Samoa in the Autumn of 2000. He also played in Wales’ 2003 Rugby World Cup squad.

His first competitive game for Llanelli Scarlets was in 2002 against Neath scoring a try on his competitive debut.

He played in his last game on the 9th of February 2012 after 18 games for the region this season. He sustained a neck injury that has kept him off the field since the early part of this year and will now force him to retire from the game, on medical advice.

He has been one of the region’s most consistent performers over the past two seasons and a well-known face in European battles for the Scarlets, Iestyn has 62 European caps to his name and has huge respect in the game as one of the Elite 50 Heineken Cup players.

His form over the last two years was recognised when he was named in a League dream team in 2011 as well as being last year’s Scarlets’ players’ player of the year with many expecting the experienced Prop to get a place in the World Cup this season. He was handed the honour of wearing the Barbarians jersey in June 2011.

Speaking about his retirement Iestyn said: “It’s not easy to have to give up my rugby career but my neck injury is such now that it really is impossible to carry on – with a series of medical opinions telling me that it would be difficult for me to recover full strength even if I opted for surgery again.

“So, the advice I have been given by the surgeons is that I have to retire from the game.

“Ironically for me, I have been really enjoying playing some of the best rugby of my career in the past two seasons and it’s really difficult to let go to that now.

Iestyn Thomas, who is celebrating a benefit year in 2011/2012 said: “It was a great honour to be named as the vice-captain for the Scarlets this season and stand in for Matthew while he was injured at the start of the season.

Nigel Davies, Scarlets Head Coach said: “Iestyn has been immense for us – and to have such a experienced and trusted professional in your ranks with so many younger players is something that as a coaching set-up you really appreciate and rely on.

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