Fears that Munster fly-half Johnny Holland’s career was in jeopardy were confirmed yesterday when the province announced the 25-year-old had been forced to retire with immediate effect.
Holland lost his battle to recover from a serious and recurring hamstring problem which stemmed from an injury he suffered in November 2014 when his hamstring was torn from the bone during a Munster A game against Nottingham.
The Corkman is understood to have informed his team-mates on Wednesday he had been forced to quit the professional game on medical advice and in a statement released by Munster Rugby a day later Holland said he did not wish to look back on his short career with regret.
“This has obviously been a very tough time for me, and ultimately it is a decision that has been taken out of my hands,” Holland said.
“It is something I have tried hard to overcome but unfortunately it has become impossible for me to win this battle. As much as this is beyond my control, I don’t want to look back on my career with any sadness.
“Rugby has given me so many opportunities and I have learned so much from the experience, with fantastic memories and friends for life.
"I am very proud to have represented my home province, especially at the end of last season, and am thankful for the support from underage rugby all the way up.”
Holland’s early rugby roots were laid down at Douglas and then Sunday’s Well before his college rugby took him to UCC and then to Cork Constitution where he cut his teeth in the All Ireland League, winning the AIL Division 1A young player of the season award in 2012-13.
A graduate of the Munster academy, he made only 11 appearances since making his competitive senior debut at Cardiff Blues in November 2013, with 47 of his 49 points for the province coming in the final seven games of last season having returned to action after a 16-month absence in March.
After two appearance off the bench Holland’s form, underlined by his consistent goal-kicking, was such that he replaced Ian Keatley as head coach Anthony Foley’s first-choice fly-half for the last five games, scoring a try against
Leinster and helping Munster attain the top-six finish in the Pro12 final standings and thereby secure Champions Cup rugby for this season.
With Holland looking to continue that progress this season as the starting fly-half under incoming director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, confirmation of his retirement will come as a bitter blow on the eve of Munster’s league opener at Scarlets.
Keatley, whose loss of form last season paved the way for Holland’s rise to prominence, remains the only proven number 10 in the squad with New Zealander Tyler Bleyendaal only returning to full fitness last weekend after an injury-hit debut season last time round having delayed his arrival from Canterbury following his recovery from a serious neck injury.
Academy fly-half Bill Johnston is also sidelined having suffered his second shoulder injury while on Ireland U20 duty in June at the Junior World Cup in England and the resultant lack of cover at out-half has meant game time for sub-academy playmaker Conor Fitzgerald, who appeared off the bench against Zebre in last month’s opening pre-season fixture at Waterford.
Unfortunately for Holland, he will have to watch how the situation unfolds from the sidelines after a promising career cruelly cut short.
“I believe this is an exciting time for Munster Rugby and while I am hugely disappointed my time has come to an end I look forward to supporting from the stands, and to the next chapter,”
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