France's 'dark destroyer' Dusautoir to retire

Mathieu GORSE
Toulouse skipper and former France captain Thierry Dusautoir captained France a record 56 times, and won three Top 14 titles and a European crown in a storied career with Toulouse RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, NO USE IN LIVE MATCH TRACKING SERVICES, TO BE USED AS NON-SEQUENTIAL STILLSFrance's flanker and captain Thierry Dusautoir leaves the pitch at the end of the Pool D match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup between France and Ireland at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales, on October 11, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, NO USE IN LIVE MATCH TRACKING SERVICES, TO BE USED AS NON-SEQUENTIAL STILLS

Toulouse skipper and former France captain Thierry Dusautoir is retiring at the end of the season, the influential back row star announced on Wednesday.

The 35-year-old Ivory coast-born flanker captained France a record 56 times, and won three Top 14 titles and a European crown in a storied career with Toulouse.

He was named World Player of the Year in 2011 after leading his country to a World Cup final defeat to New Zealand.

"If I'm emotional it's because I'm finishing my rugby playing career at the end of the season," he told a press conference.

"It's a very special moment, charged with emotion for me but not sadness, as I'm going to be enthusiastically pursuing a new opening which I've begin to develop, a second life as a businessman."

The Abidjan-born Dusautoir began his career in 2001 with Begles, moving on to Colomiers for a season in 2003 then Biarritz -- winning the 2005 and 2006 French title -- before putting down roots at Toulouse.

He went on to win the French Top 14 championship with the club in 2008, 2011 and 2012, and the European title in 2010, the same year he guided France to the Six Nations Grand Slam.

Born in Abidjan to a French father and an Ivorian mother Dusautoir arrived in France aged ten.

Introduced to rugby by school friends whilst his mother thought he was at judo he reflected on the massive influence the game has had on him.

"The decision one day to come along and put on boots and a pair of shorts literally changed my life and turned a timid kid into one who had confidence in himself.

"This sport has changed my life and I owe it a great debt.

"I never thought I'd go on to have the career that I did," he said.

Dusautoir brought the curtain down on his 80-cap career after a sobering 62-13 loss to the All Blacks in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals.

He first donned a France shirt in 2006, against Romania.

One year later he burst onto the world stage at the 2007 World Cup, making his name with a breathtaking display against New Zealand in the quarter-final with a try and 29 tackles.

- Heroics -

His heroics that day lifted France to a famous 20-18 win and earned him the nickname "The Dark Destroyer", and cemented his place in the national side.

His team went on to lose to England in the semi-finals.

Vice-captain to Lionel Nallet in 2008, Dusautoir was named captain for the first time for a tour to New Zealand a year later, a first victory coming in the 29-22 triumph over the All Blacks in Dunedin, the last time time France beat the two-time world champions.

Heading into the 2011 World Cup, Dusautoir was skipper of a team that revolted against then-coach Marc Lievremont after a shock 19-14 pool defeat by Tonga.

But the French came back and made the final, losing 8-7 to New Zealand in a nail-biting match in which Dusautoir scored a try and was named man-of-the-match.

As he prepares for a new chapter in his life Dusautoir will now be hoping he can match the success he's had on the pitch with his digital marketing and food import-export companies.