Munster and Ireland hooker Damien Varley has announced his retirement from rugby due to injury.

In a further blow for Munster on the day Robin Copeland was ruled out for the remainder of the season, Varley has been forced to retire from the game due to a left foot injury he sustained at a training session in July 2013.

The 31-year-old won three caps for Ireland and made 121 appearances for the province, scoring 12 tries.

Following ongoing rehabilitation, the hooker made his one and only appearance of the season as a replacement against Leinster in October.

But ongoing persistent symptoms restricted his ability to train and play further, and he required surgery later that month.

In rehabilitating the injury for the next three months, exhausting all possibilities, Varley met the surgeon in January for a consultation and the Clare man was advised to retire on medical grounds.

As a club player the Garryowen man featured twice for the province over a five-day period in May 2006, making his debut against Ospreys and coming on against Scarlets.

He moved to London Wasps in 2008 before returning to Limerick at the start of the 2009/10 season, going on to play a key role in Munster's success.

He started in Munster's historic win over Australia in Thomond Park in November 2010 and was the starting hooker in the province's Magners League winning Grand Final against Leinster in May 2011. 

During the 2013/14 season he captained the side on eight occasions, including against Toulon when making his first Heineken Cup semi-final start in May 2014.

"I am privileged to have represented my province and country and I am hugely thankful for all the memories."

Varley first represented Ireland against Australia in June 2010, and his two other appearances were both against Argentina, with the most recent taking place in June 2014.  He has 4 Ireland 'A' caps.

"It is with great sadness that I have to announce my premature retirement," he said.

"Like so many before me I will look back at my time in Munster with immense pride and fondness, not only for the sport, but for the people that I have played with, worked with and the friendships I have made.

"I am privileged to have represented my province and country and I am hugely thankful for all the memories, and for the support I have received throughout my career." 

Munster head coach Anthony Foley said: "Damien's contribution to the squad was so much more than his rugby skill-set.  He was a highly regarded and talented individual, and always led by example with his attitude, professionalism and work-ethic on and off the field. 

"We know it has been a long road for him with this injury and although we are losing a player of his calibre we recognise all that he has done for the province and we wish him every success for the future.”