Exeter head coach Rob Baxter has paid a glowing tribute to James Hanks, who has been forced to retire aged only 29.
The lock announced on Tuesday that he is following advice from medical experts to quit the game after he suffered a serious neck injury during last month's LV= Cup semi-final win over Bath.
Hanks spent 10 years with the Chiefs, making 192 appearances, and he is the third Exeter player to retire this season after Tom Hayes and Chris Whitehead also had to quit due to injury.
Baxter said: "I had a chat with Hanksy last week and obviously thanked him for all he's done, the length of time he's been here and the successful journey he's been on with us.
"He turned up as a fresher at Exeter University when I had the head coach role and I did what didn't happen very much at that time, and that was pick a fresher because he was ready to play for the first team.
"I liked the look of him straight away. He had that size and athleticism that stood out at university level, but he also had the physicality and toughness about him that stood him out above the other young guys.
"Pretty soon we had him down at the club and it went from there.
"He's one of the guys who's progressed at every level he's played and got better and better.
"Obviously this injury is awful and the fact it's finished his career is bad, but it's also unfortunate that we haven't seen more of him because he has had quite a few serious injuries.
"He missed a whole season with an ACL, his collarbone injuries more recently have knocked him back a bit and then to get back and be in contention for a big period of the season for us, appear off the bench in the LV semi, for what happened to happen is awful for him.
"At the same time, he's had some fantastic moments for the club and I'd like to thank him for everything he's done."
Baxter has already signed Australian Mitch Lees from London Welsh, and he expects to add further strength to his forwards for next season.
Baxter added: "I put some feelers out there as soon as it was confirmed that James would have to retire.
"It's a bit late in the season to recruit a front-line lock, but we'll see what's on the market and go from there."