Ibanez calls time on his career
February 17, 2009
Ibanez lifts the Guinness Premiership trophy following Wasps' victory over Leicester last season © Getty Images
Wasps captain Raphael Ibanez has today announced his retirement from club rugby with immediate effect.
The former France captain has been forced to end his career on medical grounds following a series of complex concussions.
Sustaining an initial concussion against Worcester Warriors in September 2008, the 36-year-old Ibanez suffered further head injuries against Leinster in Dublin and Sale at Adams Park earlier this season and has since undergone a number of investigations whilst completing a recommended two month period of rest.
Subsequently Ibanez has attempted to gradually integrate back into training however he is still symptomatic when undertaking physical exertion. Following a reassessment by London Wasps neurosurgeon and neurologist last week the decision was made by the medical team, coaches and Ibanez to stop playing with immediate effect as the risk of serious injury are too great to warrant an attempt to play again.
"We agreed that in order to avoid an even worse injury it is time for me to stop playing," said Ibanez. "Some days I still feel some physical lows from my last concussion so I think it is a wise decision. I tried everything I could to come back onto the pitch but it is just too risky now.
"My ambition was to carry on for as long as I could but I have had to listen to the specialists around me. During all my career I have overcome so many injuries to live my passion every Sunday but this time it is pretty serious."
Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan said: "We are sorry he is finishing in this way in some respects - but he has a lot of living to do after his rugby and we want him to be able to do that for himself but also for his wife Sandra and his family. It is a privilege to have coached him."
Ibanez, who started his career with Dax, won 98 Test caps and was part of the French team that won Grand Slams in 1997, 1998 and 2002. He captained at two World Cups, leading Les Bleus to the 1999 Rugby World Cup final and fourth place in the 2007 tournament on home soil.
Ibanez, who joined Saracens after the 2003 Rugby World Cup, moved to Wasps in 2005 and in three seasons with the club won the Powergen Cup, the Heineken Cup and the Guinness Premiership title.
"It has been a fantastic journey," said Ibanez. "If I have something to miss I think I would miss the adrenaline before a game when you fully engage your mind and body for the battle. There is no better place than a rugby pitch to learn about the people around you and about yourself."
Ibanez will continue to work for Wasps as part of the academy coaching team and fulfilling ambassadorial duties off the field for the rest of this season before turning his mind to the future.
"Coaching is something I will think about," he said. "It is a matter of when and where. I can't walk away from rugby without giving something back to the sport I love most."
It would no surprise if Ibanez was offered a role at Wasps such is the high regard he is held in at the club.
"I am having £20 on him being the French coach one day," joked Shaun Edwards. "One thing that comes across about Rafa is his humility and his humour. When I finally finish coaching I will look back on my career and I will be able to say 'I coached Raphael Ibanez'."
Raphael Ibanez Fact File:
Ibanez played his first game of rugby at the age of 18, coming to the game late. His father also played hooker for Dax before him.
International Career :
There were 142 French Test Matches between his debut and last match, of which he played on 98 occasions.
Ibanez captained France for the first time against England in the opening Six Nations game of 1998. It was Ibanez' 7th cap, and only his 3rd start for his country. France won 24-17 on the way to the Grand Slam. England was captained by Lawrence Dallaglio. It was the first game ever played at the Stade de France.
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