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Welsh Rugby
Rhys Thomas forced to retire
ESPNscrum Staff
April 27, 2012
Rhys Thomas has been forced to hang up his boots © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Rhys M. Thomas
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Teams: Scarlets | Wales

Scarlets prop Rhys Thomas has announced his retirement from the sport after suffering a heart attack back in January.

Thomas, who has won seven caps for his country, was taken ill while taking part in a cardio session in the gym at the region's Parc y Scarlets ground. He was treated by the Scarlets' medical team and was then rushed to Morriston Hospital in Swansea where he underwent a life-saving quadruple heart bypass operation.

Thomas, who suffered a mild heart attack while with the Newport Gwent Dragons in 2006, says it could take him up to a year to fully recover. He said: "At the moment, it is about spending time with my family and friends and I'd like to thank my wife, Paula, for all her support.

"I'm just concentrating on getting myself fit and healthy again and that could take 12 months after what's happened. The support I've been shown has been incredible and I'd like to thank all the Scarlets rugby supporters, my colleagues at Parc y Scarlets, fellow players, people across the rugby world and all those who have send me their best wishes. To receive so many messages over the past few months has been a real boost to me and my family during a fairly challenging time."

Thomas paid tribute to the support he had received from his family, the Scarlets and the wider rugby community following his heart attack and realises he is lucky to be alive. "I was extremely close to losing my life," he said. "My surgeon tells me that when he opened my chest he did not think I would make it through the operation.

"When he was telling me things like that in the days before I went home, that's when it really hit home that it was that close. But I am still here so I am pretty happy. I have had a couple of weird incidents through my life but I am using up my nine lives definitely, I don't think I have many left."

Thomas is now on a special diet and fitness programme to help him return to full health, but hopes to remain involved in the game. He added: "It's still early but I know that I want to stay in the game that means so much to me. Perhaps coaching, helping out young front rowers. There's a number of things I might be able to do.

"It's been tough to close this chapter because I really felt I was hitting some form this season. But I have to move on now and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the Scarlets."

Thomas' retirement is the second by a Scarlets' prop this week after former Wales loosehead Iestyn Thomas hung up his boots due to a neck injury. And the 35-year-old, who won 33 Wales caps and made 214 appearances for the west Wales region, believes the demands of the modern game may mean that lengthy careers like his own, which stretched back over 15 seasons, may become a thing of the past.

He said: "Professionalism means players are getting bigger and stronger so the collision side of the game is getting heavier, that's the way things have gone. I think you will see players come into the game at a younger age and finish younger.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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