Ulster back row Chris Henry has announced that he is retiring from rugby with immediate effect, saying rugby "has taken its toll physically".
Henry is currently celebrating his Testimonial Year in recognition of 10 seasons of service to Ulster Rugby, having made his debut against Harlequins in January 2009.
The 34-year-old represented Ulster 184 times with his last appearance coming against Scarlets in September this year.
Ulster's operations director, Bryn Cunningham, said: “Chris has been a fantastic ambassador for Ulster Rugby and represents all of what we stand for as an organisation.
“As a proud Ulster man, not only has Chris given everything for the shirt, but he has also added real value to the local community. From the relationship he has with our supporters, to coaching at Malone RFC, to his charity work, he has given back more than he has got out of the game.
“He has overcome significant setbacks throughout his career and that is testament to his strength of character.
“On behalf of everyone at Ulster Rugby, I’d like to wish Chris and Jade all the best as they embark on this exciting new chapter in their lives. We look forward to welcoming them back to Kingspan Stadium as a family in the near future.”
He played for Malone RFC, Wallace HS and Ballymena RFC, before earning provincial and international honours, making his debut for Ireland against Australia in June 2010. He went on to earn 24 caps.
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.
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,