France rugby international Kévin Gourdon forced to retire due to heart problems

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Players and top flight rugby clubs led the tributes on Tuesday to the Stade Rochelais foward Kévin Gourdon who announced his retirement due to a heart problem.

The 31-year-old France international was told he was at risk if he continued to play professionally.

"It's brutal and sad news,” Gourdon said in a statement. “But my health is a priority. Unfortunately I'm not in a position to do anything to make the situation different, so I have no regrets.”

Gourdon joined Stade Rochelais in 2012 when the club was in the Pro D2. He was part of the squad that gained promotion to the Top 14 in 2014 and played 221 times including the final of the European Challenge Cup in 2019 and the 2021 Champions Cup showdown against Top 14 rivals Toulouse.

He won his first international cap during the tour of Argentina in 2016 and turned out 19 times for his country.

The French rugby federation was among those to hail his performances.

“I have been lucky enough to have a very full career,” Gourdon added. “I have experienced a lot of things with the Stade Rochelais, the Pro D2, the fight to stay in the Top 14 and then a few years later the final phases ... I have also been proud to play with the French national team. It's a lot of memories and emotions.

“But I have to turn to a new part of my life, perhaps a little earlier than expected, but I am convinced it will be just as fulfilling.”

“Good luck for the future Kévin and congratulations on your great career!” tweeted the Toulon veteran Sergio Parisse.

The Top 14 club Stade Francais said: “A thought for Kévin Gourdon who has been forced to retire. Always a formidable adversary for our sides.”

Vincent Merling, the president of Stade Rochelais, said: "Kévin, the man he is, his loyalty to the club and his immense talent have made him an emblematic player in the culture and identity of Stade Rochelais.

"He will be greatly missed as we continue to write the history of the side to which he has already contributed so much. Kévin and his family can be assured of the full support of the Stade Rochelais."

Gourdon is expected to say a formal farewell to fans at the Stade Marcel Deflandre before Stade Rochelais play LOU on 27 December.

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