Heart problem forces French rugby star into retirement at age 31

France international rugby star Kevin Gourdon, 31, has announced his retirement from the sport after the recent discovery of a potentially serious heart problem, his club La Rochelle announced on Tuesday.

Gourdon, who won 19 caps for France during a nine-year professional career and who had recently inked a new two-year deal with the southwestern French side, revealed via his club's website that he took the decision to end his career after being informed in the past week of the cardiac issue. 

Specific details as to his heart complaint have not been revealed. 

"It’s brutal and sad news, but my health is a priority," Gourdon said in a written statement. 

"Unfortunately it’s something we can’t control, I’m not in a position to do anything to make the situation different, so I have no regrets.

"Today I have to turn to a new part of my life, perhaps a little sooner than expected, but which will be, I’m convinced, just as fulfilling," the flanker added.

Gourdon played the entirety of his professional career with the French coastal side currently led by Irish rugby legend Ronan O'Gara.

Since his debut in 2012, Gourdon played 221 games for the club across all competitions and was pivotal in their rise from a lowly second division team to last season's European Rugby Champions Cup - where they narrowly lost to Top 14 rivals Toulouse. 

"I’ve been lucky enough to have a busy career, I’ve experienced a lot with Stade Rochelais, the Pro D2, the fight to stay in the Top 14 and then a few years later the final phases. It’s a lot of memories, a lot of emotions," added Gourdon. 

La Rochelle president Vincent Merling praised Gourdon's contributions towards La Rochelle's ascent through the French rugby ranks, praising the now-retired star for "the man that Kevin was, his loyalty to the Club, his immense talent…We will miss him a lot."

Social media was quick to note Gourdon's impact on French rugby.

"Kevin Gourdon has had to give up the game with immediate effect due to a heart problem. A wonderful player for La Rochelle and France," noted one fan. 

"This is very sad news. 31-year-old France and La Rochelle back-row Kevin Gourdon has had to retire due to a heart problem. Cracking player. Wish him all the best," said another.

"Sad to hear that Kevin Gourdon has been forced into retirement due to a heart issue. An unsung hero for La Rochelle who has been a major cog within the forwards," added a third. 

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