Wales and Scarlets prop Rhys Thomas announces retirement

Thomas won seven Wales caps after making his debut against Argentina in 2006
Thomas won seven Wales caps after making his debut against Argentina in 2006

Wales and Scarlets prop Rhys Thomas has been forced to retire from playing on medical advice.

The 29-year-old underwent heart surgery in January after being taken ill during a training session at Parc y Scarlets.

The South Africa-born former Newport Gwent Dragons tight-head won seven caps for Wales between 2006 and 2009.

"I'm just concentrating on getting myself fit and healthy again and that could take 12 months after what's happened," said Thomas.

"It is a tough thing to take and to come to terms with.

"The intensity and commitment that's required at the top end of professional rugby means it becomes a huge part your life; and to have that suddenly stripped from you, takes some getting used to."

Thomas is the second Scarlets prop to retire this week, as Iestyn Thomas will also step down due to a neck injury.

Rhys Thomas was born in South Africa but began his professional career in Wales, making his debut for Newport, the town of his father's birth, in 2003.

He came through the youth ranks at Rodney Parade and made a try-scoring debut for the Dragons following the advent of regional rugby in a 27-5 win over Glasgow in October 2003, before establishing himself as a Dragons regular in the 2004-05 season as the team finished fourth in the Celtic League.

The tight-head made his international debut in Wales' 45-27 defeat by Argentina in Buenos Aires in June 2006, replacing Adam Jones in the second half.

But he was unable to play for seven months between October 2007 and May 2008 because of a mystery chest problem.

Thomas's next Test cap was in August 2007 when Wales were defeated 62-5 by England in a World Cup warm-up.

The 18st 12lb powerhouse joined Scarlets from the Dragons in 2009 after making 119 appearances for the Newport-based region.

Thomas scored nine tries in 52 Scarlets appearances and scored four times in his 17 games this season. His last outing for the region was in their on 7 January.

"I've only ever played rugby and that's all I'd ever wanted to do and to be told that's it's over so suddenly has been hard to get my head around," added Thomas.

"But I am grateful to the Scarlets and our supporters who have been really supportive and given me all the backing I needed."

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