Former ‘Ikale Tahi prop Sona Taumalolo has been forced to retire from rugby because of spinal problems.

The 36 year old front rower earned 20 test caps for Tonga and last turned out for the kingdom at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

He’s spent the past three seasons at French club Grenoble, scoring 14 tries in 70 appearances, but made the difficult decision to hang up his playing boots after serious problems were detected during a medical visit.

“The FC Grenoble Rugby wished to extend its journey with Sona Taumalolo for one more season. Unfortunately, during his medical tests, cervical spine anomalies were detected,” said the club in a statement on their website.

Grenoble said it was a delicate situation for the loosehead prop, who could potentially suffer a life-changing injury if he continued playing.

“It is with a lot of regret and sadness that the Club makes this announcement. Sona is an example for our Club et un “dad of the locker room”. A awesome fighter who must give up for the first time of his huge career.

“Sona is deeply affected. We want to give him and his family our full support. The FCG will stay close to him and will help him in the coming weeks to help surpass this moment,” concluded the club.

The popular loosehead also represented Racing 92, Perpignan and the Chiefs, where he won a Super Rugby title in 2012.

‘Ikale Tahi head coach Toutai Kefu said Taumalolo is a perfect role-model for all Tongan rugby players wishing to reach the professional level.

“My first dealing with him was in the 2011 World Cup and he was fantastic. I’ve never met a Tongan guy who approached the game with such professionalism,” he said.

“We actually tried to get him to come and play for us in the last 18 months but due to his club commitments he couldn’t leave but I wish him all the best.

“He’s a fantastic role-model and I wish him all the best for his future endeavours.”

-RNZ

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