Connacht have announced the immediate retirement of prop Brett Wilkinson due to a serious neck injury sustained while playing for the side.
The 30-year-old South African, who has been with Connacht since 2006 and has played 183 times for the province, revealed his disappointment.
"It has, of course, come as a big shock for me that I have to retire so suddenly. I'm devastated that I won't play again but the nature of my injury was very serious and I have to appreciate that I have my health," he informed Connacht's website.
Wilkinson suffered the injury during a Heineken Cup game at Saracens in January. Following two medical consultations, he has been directed to cease contact sport with immediate effect. He will wear a neck brace continuously for three months to stabilise the damage and to rule out surgery.
"It's strange to find myself in this situation but I've had time to get over the initial shock and now I am just really grateful for all the opportunities I've had through rugby," he added.
"I'd like to thank my fiancee Patrice and my family and friends, both here in Ireland and in South Africa, for their constant support. My team mates at Connacht, former and present, are some of the best friends I have and the memories of sharing the highs and lows of professional sport with them is something I'll have forever.
"The Connacht supporters are some of the best supporters in the world and I'd like to thank them for welcoming me so openly to Galway and Connacht - a place I now call home."
Dan McFarland, Connacht Assistant and Forwards Coach added: "Brett has been a tremendous asset to Connacht Rugby over the last eight years. It is extremely unfortunate for him and the province that an injury should curtail his career."
"He arrived as an unheralded but talented club player and managed through hard work and perseverance to deservedly wear the number one jersey for a long time. I have really enjoyed working with him, am very sad to see him finish but am certain whatever path he chooses will lead him to success."