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Jefferson Poirot retires from France rugby team at age 27

PARIS (AP) — France prop Jefferson Poirot has retired from international rugby at the age of 27, even though the national team is on an upward curve, because he wants to focus entirely on his club commitments.

Poirot, who scored his only try in 36 test appearances for France during last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, plays for Bordeaux Bègles in the French Top 14 league.

“This decision means I will no longer have the feeling of playing at 50% on every front and to refocus on one objective at 100%," he wrote on his Instagram account. “The objective which obsesses me the most is winning trophies at club level, to go up another level in my career as a player and to be a full-time dad.”

Poirot led France for one game at the World Cup as part of a captaincy rotation policy, and many observers expected him to take over as fulltime captain from hooker Guilhem Guirado after the tournament, which saw France narrowly lose to Wales in the quarterfinals. Guirado has also retired from the international scene.

But new coach Fabien Galthié gave the armband to the less experienced Charles Ollivon, and the rampaging flanker has proved a revelation in the unexpected captaincy role. Galthié even dropped Poirot from the whole squad for a Six Nations match against Wales this year.

“Those who don't know me might be surprised, may be disappointed (by my decision). Those who know me can understand," said Poirot, reflecting on his choice. “Those who are close to me support me and this decision has been maturely thought through. In no way was it taken on a whim.”

Yet his decision to walk away comes just as France has turned the corner after years of mediocrity at international level.

Galthié has completely revitalized the side and infused it with younger players, while instilling greater fitness and composure under pressure.

France beat World Cup finalist England in their opening game of this year's Six Nations and was in contention to win the tournament when it was suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was a surprise considering, at 27, Poirot is entering his prime rugby years and France is hosting the next World Cup in 2023.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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