Leinster Rugby hooker James Tracy has this morning announced he has been forced to retire from professional rugby on medical grounds due to a neck injury he suffered in April 2022.
Despite his best efforts and that of the Leinster Rugby medical team to get back playing again, that has not been possible.
31-year-old Tracy won 141 caps for Leinster in a stellar career spanning ten seasons, and was also capped six times by Ireland.
The Kildare native won a Champions Cup medal in 2018, coming off the bench in the final against Racing 92 in Bilbao, and has four PRO14 titles and two British & Irish cups to his name.
Tracy issued a statement through leinsterrugby.ie this morning, where he said, “Today is a day of reflection and gratitude.
“Playing for Joe, Leo and Stu, Leinster Rugby, the 12 counties it represents and my country, it has been a tremendous honour.
“I have learnt so much from each coach and can’t thank them enough for believing in me. During my ten seasons as a Leinster player, I’ve pursued success and became obsessed with winning, while being lucky enough to prepare and train with the highest calibre of players and backroom staff. It has been an honour to represent my Leinster family and all of the supporters.
“I say this with a heavy heart: I am retiring from rugby as result of injury. I cherished every moment of my career, and it has been such a blessing to play the game for as long as I have.
“I look forward to next season, but this time with the sole focus of being a great husband to Ashley and father to my children Bay and Riley.”
The much-respected hooker, also acknowledged his family and the clubs, school and coaches that have played such an important role in his development as a player.
“My mum and dad provided me with the perfect combination of love and discipline and showed me what hard work and sacrifice looks like. All that I am, and everything I have done, is because of them. I have always strived to make them proud and am forever grateful for everything they do for me and my sisters.
“My sisters have each greatly helped me in a variety of ways. I owe you both a great deal and feel very fortunate to have you as family. To Sara-Jane and Leanne, thank you, and I love you both dearly.”
Tracy, who came through the Leinster Rugby age grade programme, started his rugby journey with Naas RFC. He later captained Newbridge College and played with UCD in the All-Ireland League.
He made his Leinster Rugby debut in November 2012 against the Ospreys while still in the Academy, and over the next few seasons would play a pivotal role in the progress made by the club under Leo Cullen.
In the 2015/16 season, he made his Champions Cup debut, on the way to 13 appearances, and that led to selection in the Ireland squad and a try-scoring debut against Canada in the November internationals.
Tracy was a crucial part of the double-winning success of 2017/18 playing in both the European and the domestic finals.
His last appearance for Leinster Rugby was in April of this year against Connacht Rugby in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Leinster Rugby head coach, Leo Cullen, said, “It is always a sad day when a player has to retire early due to injury, so we were all gutted to hear the news that James is being forced to hang up his boots.
“JT was incredibly diligent throughout his career and was always looking at ways to add to what the group was delivering, both on and off the field. It was his attention to detail – not many spent more time in the analysis room – that served James and Leinster so well as he played a huge role in the success of the team over the past number of seasons.
“Many of you will have seen the commitment that JT delivered on the field, but he was also incredibly giving of his time off the field and he has been a brilliant role model for our younger players.
“We would all like to wish James, Ashley, and their young family every success in the next phase of their lives and we hope to see them all at a Leinster game at the RDS, Aviva or somewhere further afield in the future.
“We cherish the fact that we were able to share in some great experiences together that will live long in the memory.”
Everyone at Leinster Rugby wishes James the very best with his retirement and wishes himself, Ashley and their family all the best of luck for the future.
Full Statement – James Tracy
Today is a day of reflection and gratitude.
Playing for Joe, Leo and Stu, Leinster Rugby, the 12 counties it represents and my country, it has been a tremendous honour.
I have learnt so much from each coach and can’t thank them enough for believing in me. During my ten seasons as a Leinster player, I’ve pursued success and became obsessed with winning, while being lucky enough to prepare and train with the highest calibre of players, medics, physios and backroom staff.
It’s hard to single out a few but I feel John Ryan, Jim McShane, Stuart O’Flanagan, Garreth Farrell, Fearghal Kerin, Tommy Turner, Cillian Reardon and Joe McGinley deserve special praise for their help throughout my career.
It has been an honour to represent my Leinster family and all the supporters.
I say this with a heavy heart: I am retiring from rugby as result of injury. I cherished every moment of my career, and it has been such a blessing to play the game for as long as I have. I look forward to next season, but this time with the sole focus of being a great husband to Ashley and father to my children Bay and Riley.
Reflecting on my eleven years in professional rugby, reminds me of the many people I owe sincere gratitude to.
No one has felt the burden of the highs and lows of professional sport more than my loving wife, Ashley. She has been with me throughout the majority of senior rugby career, and was completely dedicated to helping me become my absolute best, on and off the field.
I would have never played for as long as I did without her endless support and love. She never complained or voiced her displeasure with me, although she had every right to do so! She has provided unwavering support through winning and losing, camps and away trips, missed weddings and all the necessary sacrifices to allow me to continue playing the game I love.
I will spend the rest of my days trying to give back to her all that she has given me.
My mum and dad provided me with the perfect combination of love and discipline and showed me what hard work and sacrifice looks like. All that I am, and everything I have done, is because of them. I have always strived to make them proud and am forever grateful for everything they do for me and my sisters.
My sisters have each greatly helped me in a variety of ways. I owe you both a great deal and feel very fortunate to have you as family. To Sara-Jane and Leanne, thank you, and I love you both dearly.
Naas RFC has had an enormous impact on me as a rugby player.
Playing underage rugby provided the foundation for my career. The community and the support of the club are what sets it apart from most.
Going to Newbridge College was a genuine turning point in my life and I will be forever grateful all my teammates and coaches. Jon Newsome, Matt O’Shea, Dermot Sherlock, Pat O’Brien, Dave Brew, to name a few. And to the friends and teachers that I had. Thank you. It is a special school.
I would like to offer my deepest thanks to Brian Murray. You have given me, and my sister Sara-Jane so much and never expected anything in return. All the extra training you did with myself and Sam (Coghlan-Murray), I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have had a professional career without your help.
A big thank you to Milena and Victoria of Platinum Pilates who played a huge role for keeping me fit and available throughout my career. Philip Mallon from Joe Mallon Motors for having me as one of their ambassadors and a big thank you also to Niall Woods of Navy Blue for representing me throughout my playing career.
Lastly, some of my best memories are from my time playing with UCD. I cherish the lifelong friendships and the craic on bus journeys home after a big away day win!
To my teammates, former and current, forming friendships and unbreakable bonds on and off the field is what makes rugby so special and so important to me.
When reminiscing on my career, I won’t think about games won or lost, but the memories and friendships made.
Thank you all,
Images & Content from Leinster Rugby
All You Need To Know | Barbarians Double-Header
The Munster Men’s and Women’s team will be in action this weekend in a historic double-header against the Barbarians.
Find out all you need to know ahead of the games below.
There will be a minute’s applause for Greig Oliver ahead of the men’s game following his tragic passing in July. Hawick RFC posted a lovely piece on a commemorative event that was recently held at the club here. Read our tribute to Greig here.
The women’s game kicks off at 2pm and the men’s game starts at 4.30pm.
Tickets are available to purchase here from €20 for adults and €10 for juniors right up until kick off.
The best value tickets are the Family Packs of four tickets for just €40 which include 2 Adults & 2 Juniors tickets.
Live on Access Munster, brought to you by Pinergy – see full details here.
Did you know?
The URC trophy will be on display for photos behind the North Terrace.
The first-ever Barbarians Women’s game was played against Munster at Thomond Park in 2017.
The Munster men’s team have never faced the Barbarians.
All four sides will be named before lunchtime on Friday.
Hear from Munster Women’s Head Coach Niamh Briggs and Men’s Head Coach Graham Rowntree ahead of the games.
Tickets for all Munster men’s home game for the 2023/24 campaign are available here.
Images & Content from Munster Rugby
Cardiff announce signing of new fly-half
Cardiff Rugby have added further depth to their fly-half resources with the signing of former Wales Under-20s star Arwel Robson.
The 26-year-old arrives from Cornish Pirates where he has spent the last two seasons after leaving Dragons RFC in 2021.
Robson has already linked up with the first-team squad and is relishing the opportunity that lies ahead at Cardiff Arms Park.
He said: “I’m incredibly excited to make the move to Cardiff. It’s an honour to be able to play at the Arms Park and I can’t wait to get the chance to run out here for the first time.
“I grew up on the terraces of the Arms Park, in a family of Cardiff season ticket holders and I was a ball boy for years so it is a club that means a huge amount to me and my family.
“After speaking to Matt about the style of play he wants to utilise, I’m confident it will really suit me and also continue to bring my game on.
“I’m very grateful to everyone at Cornish Pirates for the opportunity and support they gave me in the past few years.
“I’ve played a lot of rugby down there and feel I am returning to Wales a better player and I am looking forward to continuing my development at the Arms Park.
“Cardiff also have a reputation for developing talent and the progression of players from the academy right through to the senior national team is testament to that.
“Now I am just looking forward to getting on the training pitch and competing for game-time.”
Robson will fight for a place at fly-half alongside fellow new signing Tinus de Beer, Ben Thomas and academy duo Harrison James and Harri Wilde.
He is the fourth signing this summer, following de Beer, Ciaran Parker and Rhys Litterick, and head coach Matt Sherratt is pleased to add to his fly-half resources.
Sherratt said: “We are delighted have have signed Arwel for this season. He has a good skill set, will challenge the line and having regular game time has improved his in game management.
“He has played a significant amount with Cornish Pirates over the past two seasons which is a sign of a player who was willing to take himself out of his comfort zone to go to a new club and get regular game time. It shows he is driven.
“Added to that he has a connection with the region and a point to prove in the Welsh professional game. He gives us a bit more depth at 10 and has slotted in well to training.”
Spingbok loosehead joins DHL Stormers ranks
Loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka has joined the DHL Stormers squad ahead of the 2023/24 season.
The 33-year-old Springbok front row forward has made the move to Cape Town and brings considerable experience with him.
Gqoboka only took up the game at the age of 19 and within two years had already secured his first professional contract. He has accumulated over 150 senior caps since then and made his Springbok debut in 2019.
DHL Stormers Head Coach John Dobson said that Gqoboka’s proven track record means he will be ready to hit the ground running when the season gets underway.
“Lizo is an experienced player who would be a valuable asset for any squad in what is an important position.
“He has already settled in well here in the pre-season and we are all looking forward to seeing what he can do when the season gets underway,” he said.
Gqoboka said that having played against the DHL Stormers many times in his career, he is excited about feeling the support of the Faithful.
“This is a great team with some incredible supporters and I can’t wait to run out in the blue and white jersey and give my all.
“My family and I have felt at home right away here, my teammates and the coaches have been so welcoming and I want to repay that when I get the chance to take the field as a DHL Stormer,” he said.