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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Vincent Clerc OR Frédéric Michalak to hang up boots after Top 14 play-off

This weekend's Top 14 play-off match between Toulon and Lyon will mark the final professional game for one of two French international stalwarts, Vincent Clerc or Frédéric Michalak.

Earlier in the season, both Clerc (Toulon) and Michalak (Lyon) announced their retirements from the game, capping off careers which ran together for many years at Toulouse.

This season has been a changing of the guard in some ways for French rugby, with Clerc and Michalak joining fellow internationals Florian Fritz and Aurélien Rougerie out of the game.

Indeed, Clerc - who has broken the record for the number of tries scored in the Top 14 - nearly called it quits last year, having struggled to return from an ankle injury.

But in doing so, he is able to call time on a long and successful career still at the top of his game.

Speaking in a video on his Twitter feed, Clerc said: "A year ago to the day, I thought everything was over after my Achilles injury. I thought about finishing but deep inside, I knew the story wasn't over, that there was another chapter left to write.

"I worked hard, I fought and I was given one more season.

"I will miss a lot of things, friends, the adrenaline, competition, the public... but what I will keep is that I have lived a childhood dream for years and I have been supported enormously during the difficult times."

Clerc announces retirement (in French)

For Michalak, it is the end of a varied career which spanned 16 years, 14 of them representing his country.

He spent two separate stints at both Toulouse and the Sharks in South Africa before joining Toulon and then Lyon when he returned to France.

Michalak said: "You have to know when to stop. I am 35 and it is starting to become more and more difficult. I told myself this year is the right time to finish.

"I still want to play but it will be the same situation if I push on for a year. It is not mental, it is the body which says to stop."

Mainstays in the French national team and key cogs in its World Cup and Six Nations successes, Clerc and Michalak will no doubt be given suitable send-offs for their invaluable contribution for club and country over the years.

So depending on who comes out on top in this weekend's playoff match, we will then know whose career to celebrate, and whose to continue enjoying for just a little bit longer.

Toulon and Lyon meet at the Stade Mayol on Friday night at 8pm local time

Michalak gets rousing reception on final visit to Ernest Wallon

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