Former Wallabies prop Smith retires due to concussion struggles

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Former Australia prop Toby Smith has retired from all rugby at the age of 31 due to his struggles with concussion injuries.

Smith, who played six tests for the Wallabies and appeared at the 2015 World Cup, had opted to not renew his contract with the Wellington Hurricanes to preserve his long-term health, the Super Rugby side said on Tuesday.

"I am making the difficult choice now to leave the game I love and that has given me so many amazing experiences and where I have made some life-long friendships," Smith said in a Hurricanes media release.

"I have had some ongoing issues with concussion, and while I am currently symptom-free, I do not wish to put that at further risk.

"I’m really grateful for the support and encouragement I have had from the Hurricanes and NZR and I now look forward to new challenges,” he said.

Smith played 108 Super Rugby games in total with the Waikato Chiefs, Melbourne Rebels and Hurricanes.

He made his Hurricanes debut in 2018 but was restricted to 21 games in two seasons due to battles with concussion and other injuries.

"Despite injuries and concussion, Toby has been a fantastic Hurricane epitomised by his outstanding performance in his last match for us in the 2019 ... Super Rugby semi-final," Hurricanes coach John Plumtree said.

"We will certainly miss him but player welfare must continue to be the number one priority."

Global governing body World Rugby has cracked down on high tackles and introduced stricter protocols in recent years for the treatment of players that suffer head-knocks on field.

But concussion continues to cut short players' careers.

Less than two weeks before the Rugby World Cup in Japan, Scotland loose forward David Denton was forced to retire at the age of 29 on medical advice after an 11-month battle with concussion.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)