FORWARD James Thomas has left the Dragons to pursue a career away from rugby after being hindered by a knee injury.

The 28-year-old from Blackwood made a pair of appearances as a replacement in the Guinness PRO14 defeats at Glasgow and Connacht this season.

However, he has been unable to take a full part in training because of a knee issue and has opted to play part-time while embarking on a career after graduating from Cardiff University with a biomedical science degree three years ago.

Thomas came through the region’s academy but made just one regional appearance, as a replacement against Sale in a 2009 Anglo-Welsh Cup tie, before being released in 2011 because of serious injuries to both knees.

The former Wales Under-20s captain’s performances with Bedwas in the Principality Premiership earned a second chance at the Dragons in 2014 and he went on to have a superb season, making 28 appearances while combining rugby with the final year of his studies.

Thomas, the son of former Blackwood and Ebbw Vale forward Mark, was plagued by injury the following campaign and the abrasive forward has failed to enjoy a consistent run in the team since.

“It’s a huge disappointment to call an end to my Dragons career, but I’m now looking forward to the next chapter in my life and thank the region, particularly (head coach) Bernard Jackman and managing director Mike Davies, for their understanding and support throughout this process,” said Thomas.

“Unfortunately, I’m now unable to train full-time to the extent required at a professionally level because of my knee.

“However, this isn’t about retirement for me as I still hope to play the game at the highest level I can, whilst exploring opportunities and a new career away from rugby.

“I’d like to thank everyone at the Dragons for their support during my time at the region, wish my teammates all the best for the future and thank the supporters for the backing they have always given me.

“I look forward to now supporting the team and joining the fans at Rodney Parade.”

Jackman said: “James has been a fantastic professional for us during his years at the Dragons, coming from the region and through the academy ranks to make his mark in the senior side.

“He leaves us with our very best wishes as he looks to fulfil his future ambitions in another industry.”