I genuinely thought that I had a few good years left in me
Gloucester's England lock Alex Brown has been forced to retire because of a shoulder injury.
Brown was hurt in the first game of the 2012-13 Premiership season, while captaining the team against Northampton Saint, and three months of rest did nothing to help.
On Thursday Brown, Gloucester's second row forward for nearly a decade, announced his retirement.
After nearly three months of rest and concentrated rehabilitation, it was evident that the nerve damage to his shoulder was significantly more serious than initially thought, and he underwent complex surgery in November to ascertain the severity of the injury in the hope that it would repair the damage.
Following the intense operation, however, Brown was told by physicians that, although the nerve-transfer would, in time, deliver an improvement of movement in day-to-day life, he would no longer be able to play professional rugby and must retire with immediate effect.
This shattering news has left Brown completely devastated and shocked.
"It's stating the obvious but I'm totally gutted," Brown said.
"I was so looking forward to this season and beyond.
"When the surgeon came in after the operation and told me that I would not be able to play rugby again, the news hit me hard and has been tough to deal with, especially as there has been a new dawn at Gloucester under Nigel Davies and I so wanted to be part of it.
"I've kept myself involved on match days, which has been a diversion but it's obviously not the same as playing."
He added: "I genuinely thought that I had a few good years left in me but it's not to be. I've had to take on board the advice I have received and what my body is telling me."
The three-times capped England international, despite the disappointment, remains grateful for the time he has spent in the game, particularly at Gloucester.
"I've been incredibly lucky to spend so many years playing in the top flight, firstly with my home town team, Bristol, and then to play for so many memorable years at Gloucester.
"I've made so many friends through playing rugby and have amassed a lifetime's worth of memories.
"Kingsholm has really become a 'home from home' to me, the passion showed by everyone at the club makes it such a special place, a place that will stay with me for the rest of my life."
Although his playing days have now sadly come to an end, Brown insists that he still has plenty to look forward to:
"I've still got lots of things to focus on and enjoy for the rest of the season; my continued work with the team and the testimonial activities that the committee have kindly organised for this year.
"It will give me an opportunity to thank everyone who has been so good to me over the years."
RPA Director, David Barnes, said: "I am so disappointed for Alex. I understand the frustration and uncertainty he will now be experiencing at being forced to retire from the game he loves.
"Alex is one of the most respected players across the Aviva Premiership for his commitment, professionalism and his understanding of the game.
"He has been synonymous with Gloucester for the last 10 seasons - an abrasive Shed favourite on the field and one of the nicest men you could wish to meet off it.
"The irony is not lost on us that this year Alex has generously been supporting Restart - The Players' Charity, to help other players who have suffered serious injury and illness, and now he too finds himself in this position.
"We will continue to work closely with Alex as he begins to plan the next stage of his life. He has had an outstanding rugby career and he possesses all the attributes needed to become equally as successful in his next career."
Brown joined Gloucester from Bristol Shoguns ahead of the 2003-4 season.
He has made a total of 227 Premiership appearances, which currently puts him in sixth place on the list of 'Appearances Made' since Premiership rugby began.
He is also the current record holder for 'Most Consecutive Premiership Starts', amassing 87 consecutive starts, proving to be a consistent performer throughout his career.
His Gloucester 1st team debut on 13th September 2003 was against Rotherham in the Premiership, and he went on to make a further 234 appearances for the 1st team, including 215 starts.
His England debut was against Australia in Sydney in 2006 and he gained his second and third caps on the tour to South Africa a year later in 2007.