18 May, 15:44
It's down to the wire now for the five contenders who have been shortlisted for the ultimate individual accolade in northern hemisphere rugby, ERC European Player of the Year 2013.
"In the course of the last week it has been confirmed that Ben Lewis will retire from rugby, based on medical opinion, after specialists advised him that it was in the best interests of his future wellbeing," said Chris Towers, head physio at the Ospreys.
"This decision stems from a neck injury he sustained in September, following which, he committed himself to an intensive rehab programme with a view to returning to rugby. Despite satisfying all the physical objectives, on his return to rugby in February, to play in the Premiership for Swansea, he suffered subsequent symptoms, happily with no residual issues. However, the nature of the symptoms are such that regrettably it is in his best interests to follow the medical advice he has received."
Capped by Wales at all the age-grade levels, Swansea born Lewis came through the local ranks before he made his Ospreys debut against Leinster in January 2007.
Speaking about his decision to call time on his career, Lewis explained:
"After speaking to the specialists, I've come to a decision which is the right one for me personally. Regrettably, this means that I have to give up rugby, but some things in life are more important than the game, life will still go on for me.
"I'm still young so there will be plenty of opportunities ahead for me. I'm not going to rush into making any decisions at the moment, I'll take my time and look at the options available before deciding what's next for me.
"I'd like to thank everybody who has supported me throughout my career, including my family and friends, and my girlfriend. At the Ospreys, I'd particularly like to thank the medical team for their outstanding care and support that I've had, as well as the players, coaches and management, and there is a special thank you to the fans who have never been anything less than brilliant to me. Obviously I will miss being part of the Ospreys, but I will no doubt remain close to the team, as I have so many good friends in the group."
Ospreys elite performance director, Andrew Hore, paid tribute to Lewis, saying:
"It is always tragic to see any player forced out of the game at such a young age. In Ben's case, he is such a talented player and an enthusiastic, passionate and intelligent person, that he offers so much to our environment on and off the pitch.
"He has had terrible luck with injury but has always dealt with his situation in a positive manner, with a commitment to getting back into action as soon as possible, as was the case on this occasion. However, unfortunately, the medical advice surrounding his neck injury is such that he has been left with no option but to retire.
"We look after our own at the Ospreys, and will provide him with whatever support he requires as he adjusts to life outside of the game, and we wish him and his family all the best for the future, whatever it holds for him."