Planet Rugby

Exeter's Hayes forced to retire

07th November 2013 10:54

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Tom Hayes London Irish v Exeter

Tom Hayes: Played 136 games for Exeter

Veteran Exeter Chiefs prop Tom Hayes has been forced to retire with immediate effect due to a troublesome back injury.

The 33-year-old Irishman bows out having played 136 times for the Chiefs.

The Limerick-born forward was not only the catalyst of Exeter's famous promotion-winning side that got into the Aviva Premiership in 2010 when they defeated rivals Bristol over two legs, but has been their trusted voice during the first three years of their existence in both the higher echelons of English and European rugby.

"It's been a great journey for me, but this is where I get off," said Hayes.

"Of course it's sad to be going out like this and I'm obviously disappointed to be leaving behind the boys that I've been playing with over the last few years.

"Rugby has been my life for a long, long time now, but sometimes you have to listen to your body and what the medical people are telling you.

"For me, it's been a privilege and an honour to be part of what we've done here at Exeter in the last few years. To be captain for a large part of that has been a great feeling and I consider myself very lucky to have gone through what I have.

"There have been some huge achievements along the way and lots of things that so many of us can be proud of. Obviously winning promotion into the Premiership is a highlight, as was getting into the Heineken Cup for the first time. To be playing sides like Clermont, Leinster and the Scarlets last year shows just how far we've come as a club.

"At the same time, I think staying up in the Premiership that first year and how we went about our business is probably the biggest highlight for me. Going up nobody gave us much of a chance, but inwardly we backed ourselves with a group of players, many of whom had come through the Championship that previous year, and we ended up finishing eighth.

"Was that a bigger achievement than promotion? I tend to think so because it was a real collective effort which we've since built on and just got stronger with."

Exeter boss Rob Baxter expressed his sadness at the news of the former club captain's retirement.

"Tom has been a big part of our journey out of the Championship and then into the Premiership," said Baxter.

"He has been there every step of the way, both as a player and as a captain, so obviously him leaving like this is a big loss for us.

"That said, I always try and look on the bright side of things and he has been part of the club's movement during what has been a very successful period for us.

"In years to come people will look back at this period and he will be one of those guys that will go down in history as being part of the team that not only helped us get out of the Championship and into the Premiership, but then got us into the Amlin and the Heineken Cups and really helped to establish us as a club."

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