Paul O'Connell has announced his retirement from rugby due to the hamstring injury sustained in the Rugby World Cup last autumn.

The 36-year-old former Ireland captain had been hoping to return to playing following the serious injury but has been forced to admit defeat and his contract with French club Toulon has been cancelled without playing a game. 

O'Connell had been an inspirational leader for his country and with Munster for nearly a decade and a half. Hon three Six Nations titles with Ireland, including a Grand Slam in 2009.

In his club career, he played for Young Munster before joining Munster and winning two European Cups as well as three Celtic Leagues. 

O'Connell made his Irish debut in 2002 and took over as Ireland captain from Jamie Heaslip in 2013. He played a total of 175 times for Munster and 108 times for his country, and also captained the Lions.

His international career highlight came with 2009's Six Nations Grand Slam title.

O'Connell made his Munster debut in 2001

O'Connell said in a statement: "It is with deep regret that I have decided to retire from professional rugby following medical advice. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all at Rugby Club Toulonnais for their understanding and support over the past few months.

"Since sustaining the injury at the World Cup I have been fully focused on returning to fitness and starting an exciting new chapter for both myself and my family in Toulon. Unfortunately this will no longer be possible.

"I have been blessed to be a professional rugby player for over 14 years and to be part of Munster and Ireland teams that have experienced success. I have played with some of the best players to ever line out in the red of Munster and the green of Ireland and have had the privilege of captaining my country.

"I would like to thank those at Young Munster RFC, Munster Rugby, the IRFU and Lions Rugby who have supported me over the course of my playing career.

"Special thanks must go to my wife Emily for her unwavering support through the good and the bad and to my parents Michael and Shelagh.

"Lastly I would like to thank everyone who has supported the teams I have been a part of. The support you have shown me is humbling and an immense source of pride for both myself and my family."