Ireland captain Rory Best to retire after World Cup

Ireland captain Rory Best has announced he will retire from rugby after the World Cup in Japan this autumn. Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland captain Rory Best has announced he will retire from rugby after the World Cup in Japan later this year.

Best, 36, has won 116 caps for Ireland since making his debut in 2005, leading his country to three Six Nations titles since replacing Paul O' Connell.

The hooker has spent his entire career at Ulster, captaining the side since 2007, but will leave the club at the end of the season before joining up with Ireland for the last time.

"It is with mixed feelings that I announce my retirement from Ulster Rugby as of the end of this season," Best said.

"This feels like the right time for me to go out on my terms, a luxury for which I feel very privileged.

"I am very excited for the end of the season with Ulster Rugby and for the upcoming World Cup with Ireland, both of which I hope to finish with a massive high, playing at the top of my game."

A two-time British & Irish Lion, Best could play in his fourth World Cup when the tournament begins on Sept. 20, and he will be hoping to cap his career with the dream ending of winning a World Cup final on Nov. 2.

Ireland begin their campaign against Scotland on Sept. 22 and are among the favourites for the World Cup after a magnificent 2018 saw them win a Six Nations Grand Slam and defeat the All Blacks on home soil.

Although Best's side endured a disappointing Six Nations in 2019, losing to England and Wales as they failed to defend their crown, they are still expected to at least come through Pool A and reach their first World Cup quarterfinal.

Before that, Best will sign off with Ulster as they look to win the Pro14 title. He is currently out with an ankle injury he suffered in the European Champions Cup clash with Leinster but should be available for the Pro14 semifinals if Ulster qualify.

"In my 15 years at this brilliant club, I have been lucky to have met, played alongside, been coached by and supported by many great people, and I would like to thank every individual for the time they have invested in me since 2004," the Northern Ireland-born forward said.

"I grew up supporting Ulster Rugby, have been fortunate to play and captain Ulster Rugby, and now look forward to supporting Ulster Rugby in the future with my family.

"The decision to retire no matter at what stage of your career is very difficult, but when you've been somewhere for 15 years and given a lot to the club it's a really, really tough decision.

"For me it just feels like the right time. When you get to this stage in your career you want to make sure you leave a place and you can walk out the front door and hold your head high and say, 'I went out on my terms.' This feels like the right time to do that."