Chiefs hooker Liam Polwart has announced his retirement from rugby at the age of 24 due to concussion issues.

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The former New Zealand U20 and Maori All Blacks representative was missing from the Chiefs squad for the 2020 Super Rugby season, which was announced last month.

The Chiefs didn’t provide an explanation for Polwart’s omission, but the Bay of Plenty star said that he was hanging his boots up for good amid medical concerns.

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“It has been a difficult decision to make to leave the game I love,” he said.

“It has provided me with plenty of great friendships and some awesome experiences. I have had some on-going issues with concussion, and while I am currently symptom-free, I [have] chosen to hang up my boots and not to put myself at further risk.

“I am grateful for the opportunities rugby has provided me and the support I have received. Now it is time to start a new chapter.”

Polwart made 25 appearances for the Chiefs since his debut for the Hamilton-based franchise in 2017, but missed the first 12 games of that season through concussion.

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After establishing himself as the Chiefs’ second-choice hooker behind All Blacks rake Nathan Harris in 2018, Polwart missed the first few months of the Chiefs’ 2019 campaign through injury after sustaining another head knock during pre-season.

He returned to action in his side’s 23-17 defeat to the Lions in Hamilton on April 19, and played in a further four matches.

However, his final appearance for the club, which came in the Chiefs’ 23-8 loss to the Blues in Auckland on May 18, lasted just one minute as he was forced from the field after picking up a concussion.

That injury resulted in him missing the entire Mitre 10 Cup campaign with Bay of Plenty, of whom he captained last year.

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Polwart’s older brother, Sean, also retired from rugby two years ago after suffering from concussion issues which stemmed from a Chiefs training session in 2015.

Chiefs forwards coach Neil Barnes commended Polwart for making what he described as a “brave” call.

“Liam is a fantastic individual, he is a talented player and can be proud of his achievements in his short yet prosperous career,” Barnes said.

“It is a testament to his character to have chosen to make this decision for his own well-being and we applaud him for being so courageous.

“We wish him all the best for the future and hope he will return to the game and inspire a future generation.”

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