French skipper Fabien Galthie announced his retirement from Test rugby after his side were dumped out of the World Cup by England on Sunday.
England's Johnson (left) commiserates with Galthie
The 34-year-old scrum-half told French television that he would not be playing in the third-place play-off against New Zealand on Thursday.
Announcing his decision, he said: "It's been a long time that I've been eating, sleeping and living rugby every day of my life.
"Jo Maso [France team manager] said it's like a small death when a player leaves, and obviously for me it's a
change for my way of life, but life goes on.
"I'm very emotional about leaving, but I take some great memories with me.»
Galthie, who led France to the 1999 World Cup final, was expected to quit after the tournament.
But the Stade Francais star made the announcement without telling either Maso or coach Bernard Laporte.
"We had heard that Fabien had discussed it with his best friends on the team, so the fact he announced he wouldn't be playing on Thursday wasn't a surprise," said Maso.
"In any case we always told Fabien that he had earned the right because of his enormous contribution to French rugby to decide himself when it was right to call it a day."
The 58-year-old former centre
insisted French rugby owed a debt of gratitude to Galthie.
The player is France's most-capped scrum-half with 64 international appearances.
He also competed in four World Cups and led France to
the 2002 Six Nations championship, earning the
International Rugby Board's player of the year.
"I doff my cap to Fabien," said Maso.
"We must respect Fabien's decision and it is a measure of the
man that he said he could have another cap [to make it 65] but
decided to give up his place.
"He has played at the highest level for over 10 years and has
had some terrible moments during that time particularly with a knee
injury but he always came back stronger."
Maso admitted that Galthie could return in some form to the French set-up.
"Both Bernard and I have told Fabien that the door is always open and we will always listen to any ideas he might have or if he wants to talk to us about any future role he might like to play," he said.
But Maso urged several of France's other elder players, such as hooker Raphael Ibanez and flanker Oliver Magne, to think carefully before making decisions over their futures.
"There is a 20-hour flight ahead of us next Monday where we can
have open and frank discussions about certain players futures," he
"I would ask those senior players not to take decisions now in
the heat of the moment that they might come to regret afterwards."