The 28-year old missed the tour to South Africa with a knee injury picked up in the Pro12 final loss to Connacht, having earlier this year missed the Six Nations due to a medial knee ligament problem. It has emerged after an incident in the PRO12 Final Fitzgerald suffered a neck injury and it is prompting him to strongly consider retirement, with an announcement expected this week.
He has sustained a string of injuries since bursting on the scene as a teenager, making his Leinster competitive debut a week short of his 19th birthday and his international debut two months later against the Pacific Islands on a day when Jamie Heaslip also made his international bow.
That was all in 2006 — earlier that year Fitzgerald won his second Leinster Schools senior cup medal with Blackrock — but a series of injuries has curtailed his international appearances to 34.
He did not make the World Cup squad in 2007 or 2011, having been on the Six Nations grand slam team of 2009, but he finally made his World Cup debut against Canada at inside centre last September. He also featured against Italy, France and Argentina but that loss to the Pumas now looks like being his final Irish game after successive knee injuries ruled him out of the Six Nations and the tour to South Africa.
His retirement would be a second blow in a week to Leinster coach Leo Cullen following Eoin Reddan’s decision to retire from rugby.
Fitzgerald has made 154 appearances for Leinster, scoring 32 tries, since his debut against Edinburgh in September 2006.
Fitzgerald previously spoke about the neck injury — largely down to wear and tear — which came close to ending his career in 2012 when he missed the Six Nations and Leinster’s Heineken Cup success that year. “There’s no one else playing the game professionally with the neck injury I have, so you take a chance with that. The only reason why I came back from the neck injury was because I felt very unfulfilled with how my career had gone in terms of where I feel I should get to, and where I feel I left it.”
However, it now appears that neck injury is set to bring a halt to his career at just 28.