FORMER Dragons back-rower Robson Blake has been forced to quit rugby at the age of just 23 after a six-month battle with concussion.

The flanker announced his retirement via social media, thanking the Dragons and former clubs Bedwas and Bedlinog for the opportunities they gave him.

Head injuries have forced a number of Welsh players to retire in recent years, and it’s a growing list that includes several faces to represent the Men of Gwent.

Hard-running Blake, released by the Dragons at the end of last term, follows the likes of Adam Hughes, Ashley Smith and Matthew Pewtner, all of whom had to call time on their careers because of concussion issues.

Newport-born flanker Blake suffered his knock while playing for the Rodney Parade region in January, and has now been told by doctors there is no way back.

Writing on Twitter, Blake said: “Not the news I wanted to share, but following a long six months off with concussion I’ve been advised by medical professionals to retire from rugby.

“Thanks to Dragons for the opportunity to play professionally, and for their continued support.

“Thanks also to Bedlinog RFC and Bedwas RFC for all the happy memories of playing club rugby.

“And finally thank you to my amazing wife for putting up with me during the dark days.

“And so on to the next challenge…”

Dragons aces Leon Brown, Elliot Dee, Ashton Hewitt and Ollie Griffiths have been among those to offer Blake their support on Twitter.

Other Welsh stars such as Jonathan Thomas and Rory Watts-Jones have all been forced to finish playing, while Ospreys centre Ben John is currently taking a year out because of head injuries.

Meanwhile, former Dragons chief Lyn Jones is the new head coach of Russia, following in the footsteps of ex-Rodney Parade boss Kingsley Jones.

Jones, 54, takes up his role with the Russian national team after a spell as head coach at former club Neath.

“My goal is to make the Russian team stronger and worthy to perform at the 2019 World Cup in Japan,” Jones confirmed in a statement.

“I talked with Kingsley Jones, who worked with the Russian national team a few years ago.

“Kingsley spoke positively about the time spent here, but I want to make my own idea about rugby in Russia, about the country, and about its culture.”

Jones, who also previously coached Ospreys and London Welsh, was most recently head coach of Namibian side Welwitschias.

Russia have qualified for the next World Cup and will play in Pool A alongside Scotland, Ireland, hosts Japan and a play-off winner.

n BBC Wales will show matches from the Principality Premiership on Friday evenings next season, starting with Ebbw Vale’s home game against Aberavon on September 7.