Prop retires after heart attack
Scarlets and Wales prop Rhys Thomas has been forced to retire from rugby after suffering a heart attack in January.
The 29-year-old Scarlets' tighthead, 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 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."
South Africa-born Thomas came through the ranks at Newport, breaking into the first team in 2003 and going on to earn a place in the Newport Gwent Dragons squad when Welsh rugby turned to a regional model.
His impressive form for the Rodney Parade side saw him win his first cap as a replacement in the first Test on the tour of Argentina in 2006.
But he missed several months of the following season after his heart attack, before eventually being given medical clearance to return to action.
He started against Italy during Wales' 2008 Grand Slam campaign after missing out on selection for the 2007 World Cup, and left the Dragons after 119 appearances to join the Scarlets in 2009.
He made 52 appearances for the west Wales region and last featured in the RaboDirect Pro12 victory over Glasgow in January.
Thomas' retirement comes just a day after fellow Scarlets front-rower Iestyn Thomas, 35, was forced to hang up his boots due to a neck injury.