Glowing tributes have been paid to David Wallace, the iconic Munster, Ireland and British and Irish Lions flanker who has called time on a glittering professional career that spanned 16 seasons.
The 35-year-old played his last game as a late substitute in Munster’s Heineken Cup quarter-final loss to Ulster — his 203rd cap — having negotiated a comeback with game-time in a RaboDirect Pro12 clash with Aironi and Connacht, before realising the long-term knee injury was proving too restrictive.
The news has come as a big blow to Munster and it’s also bad news for national coach Declan Kidney who might have done with Wallace’s experience for Ireland’s three-match tour to New Zealand next month.
Munster skipper Paul O’Connell described Wallace’s forced retirement as “very sad” and said it was ironic because he was probably in the best shape he ever had been in his long career.
“For me he has probably been Munster’s best player for the past 10 or 12 years. He is just incredible. He has been our real power-athlete that we have gone to time and time again to get us over the gain-line and to score tries for us,” said O’Connell.
“He is a fantastic player, an incredible competitor. You just have to see the guy when we were fitness-testing or speed-testing or weight-testing to know what a competitor he was. Maybe in the media or among supporters people didn’t realise how competitive and how driven he was because he had such a kind of jovial personality, but beneath it all he was an incredible competitor and he is going to be a big loss to both Munster and Ireland now.
“It’s a sad day for Munster; a lot of the guys probably knew it was coming in the last few weeks but when he announced it officially it kind of hits you.”
One of three brothers who created history in representing the British and Irish Lions — Wallace yesterday said older siblings Richard and Paul were his inspiration — the latest Munster retiree was also praised by Ulster captain and Ireland hooker Rory Best.
“We sorely missed him at the World Cup, on and off the field. Wherever you were going, you’d always give him a ring.
“When I first came into the Ireland squad, he was there at the heart and soul of it. Even a year ago, when you looked at him you thought he was going to go on forever. It just goes to show you’re only one big injury away from never playing again. At the end of the Six Nations, Wally was in flying form and probably one of Ireland’s best players.
“Playing against him, he was a nightmare from five metres out, once those big legs got going, you were in trouble. Playing against Rog, your big game plan is to try and pressure him but he’d dump it off to Wally and next thing you’re five metres behind the gain line because he was an absolute freak.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved