WALES lock Jake Ball will end his international career at the end of the season by leaving the Scarlets to return to Australia.

The 29-year-old has won 49 caps but will no longer be eligible for Test rugby from the summer after opting to head Down Under for family reasons.

Ball's wife Christie returned home earlier this year to be with her family for the birth of their fourth child Max. The second rower will join them in July, bringing to an end a nine-year spell in Llanelli.

"It has been a difficult decision to make but one I have made for the family," said Ball.

"My wife was expecting our fourth child and with Covid around and players having to be in bubbles and everything, we made the decision that she and the kids should go home to have some family help and support around her.

"Max was born last month; there have been Zoom calls and things, but I haven't seen him yet and it has been difficult.

"As the season goes on, it would be pretty tough of me to ask Christie to come back here away from her family again.

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"It has been a fantastic nine seasons I have been here. I love the Scarlets and playing with Wales has been unbelievable and something I will never forget.

"It has been a massive honour to represent my country, but at the end of the day I made a huge sacrifice in staying behind for a year without my family. I have four kids now and I won't have seen them for close on a year."

Ball, who was born in Ascot but raised in Perth, signed for the Scarlets from Western Force in 2012

He has made 127 appearances for them and has been a key figure for Wales since making his Test debut in 2014.

The Welsh Rugby Union's selection policy means he won't be available to Wayne Pivac as he hasn't hit 60 caps. Ball discussed the matter with the Wales boss in the autumn and has his full support.

The lock will remain available during the Six Nations but Pivac may opt to look to the future.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones, Ball, Dragons target Will Rowlands, Cory Hill and Seb Davies were used in the autumn while Adam Beard is a leading candidate.