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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008, 13:46 GMT
France's Ibanez quits Test rugby
Raphael Ibanez
Ibanez's final game came against Argentina last year
France captain Raphael Ibanez has announced his retirement from international rugby.

The 34-year-old said he would carry on playing with Wasps at least until the end of the season.

He has represented Les Bleus 98 times since his debut in 1996, with 41 of those caps coming as skipper.

"I have loved every minute of playing for France and the decision to retire was a very emotional one for me to take," he said.

"It is time to move onto something else. My journey with Les Bleus is stopping now."

Ibanez revealed his decision to retire had been made following a conversation with new France coach Marc Lievremont.

"Marc's plans centre around bringing in new young faces to take France forward," said Ibanez.

"I respect that, and fully support his decision and plans, but that informed my decision to retire. I like to think that I still have enough good rugby inside me to have played again for France, and reached the 100 mark."

Wasps have offered Ibanez an extension to his contract for next season as a player and member of the coaching staff but he said he is undecided on the future.

"Raf is a bloke who plays the game with passion and a fierce competitive edge, but who is living proof that nice guys do come first," said Wasps coach Shuan Edwards.

He was a great skipper and left his mark on the game

France team manager Jo Maso

Only lock Fabien Pelous with 118 games and center Philippe Sella with 111 played more times for France than Ibanez, who featured in three straight World Cups and won Grand Slam titles in 1998 and 2002.

Pelous and winger Christophe Dominici also retired from the national team after the World Cup.

Ibanez first quit the international stage after the 2003 World Cup but came back two years later and has won four Five and Six Nations championships.

The former Dax, Castres, Perpignan and Saracens player captained France to victory during last season's Six Nations and also led the team to the 2007 World Cup semi-final.

606: DEBATE

France team manager Jo Maso said that Ibanez had made a huge contribution to French rugby over the last decade.

"He was a great skipper and left his mark on the game, both at club level and international level and he was a key element for us interfacing between the players and the coaching staff," he said.

"But it is a wise decision he has taken."

SEE ALSO
Dominici quits international game
05 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
France 10-34 Argentina
19 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union


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