Aviva Premiership
Exeter stalwart Tom Hayes retires
ESPN Staff
November 7, 2013
Former Chiefs skipper Tom Hayes played in Exeter's debut season in the Heineken Cup © Getty Images

Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter has paid tribute to Chiefs lock Tom Hayes following his retirement from rugby.

The club announced on Wednesday the ex-Exeter captain has quit with immediate effect due to a back injury. Irishman Hayes spent five years with the Aviva Premiership outfit, making more than 130 appearances.

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

"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."

Hayes helped guide the Chiefs into the Premiership back in 2010 but in his mind, staying in the top flight when so many tipped them for relegation was his biggest achievement.

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

"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."

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