Warren Gatland has led the tributes to Josh Navidi, who has announced he is to retire with immediate effect from all rugby due to a “serious neck injury”.
Both Cardiff Rugby and Wales have been waiting patiently all season for the versatile 32-year-old back rower to recover from his on-going injury, but now he has been forced to admit defeat.
“Josh has been a fantastic player for Wales over a number of years and always given his all in the red jersey. It took me a while to recognise what a quality international player he could be,” said Gatland.
“It was a pleasure to coach him at international level for Wales and the British and Irish Lions, he and his family can be very proud of all he’s achieved in rugby.
“I know all the Wales management and wider WRU will join me in wishing Josh all the best for the future.”
A Grand Slam star in 2019 under Gatland, Navidi was also a driving forced in the side coached by Wayne Pivac that won the Six Nations title in 2021.
He was first called into the Wales Squad In January, 2013, ahead of the Six Nations championship. He didn’t get a game, but then went on the summer tour to Japan and made his debut against the Japanese in Tokyo.
He had to wait four years before winning his second cap, against Tonga in Auckland on the 2017 summer tour, and went on to become the stand-out player for Wales in the 2017 Autumn Series.
His Six Nations debut came in the win over Scotland on 3 February, 2018, and he started four games in that championship. A year later he was a starter in all five Six Nations games in the Grand Slam campaign.
After recovering from a lengthy shoulder injury, he returned to the Welsh squad for the final two rounds of the 2022 Six Nations campaign. He had last played for Wales against France in the 32-30 defeat in Paris in March 2021.
Having picked up an injury on the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in the summer of 2021, he then left the field after only eight minutes of his first game back for Cardiff in a URC fixture against the Bulls on 9 October, later that year.
He underwent shoulder surgery and spent five months, missing the 2022 Six Nations. He returned in time to be included in the latter stages of the 2022 Championship and went on the summer tour to South Africa later that year.
He played in all three Tests against the world champion Springboks, including the historic second Test triumph in Bloemfontein – the first win by Wales on South African soil against the home side.
He once again underwent surgery, this time for a neck injury, after returning from South Africa and has now had to call time on his outstanding career.
“It is with great sadness but also an immense amount of pride that I am announcing my retirement from rugby,” said Navidi, who helped Cardiff Blues win the EPCR Challenge Cup in Bilbao in 2018..
“Although I knew this day would come eventually, I don’t think I was ever really able to prepare myself for how difficult it would be to put into words just how much of an impact the game has had on my life.
“I am enormously grateful to everyone at Cardiff Rugby. I started my career with the club in 2009, and over those 14 years, there have been so many memories made that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”