CROSS Keys director of rugby Jonathan Westwood has paid tribute to club hooker Garry Horrigan who has been forced to retire from the game.
The former Cardiff Blues, Newport and Neath player, 28, stands down on medical advice after suffering a dislocated vertebrae in his neck.
The injury occurs following the displacement of one of the small bones in the neck.
The Pandy Park side are also without young hooker Jamie Sollis who was hurt in a road accident last month.
The promising Wales Under-20s player from Caerphilly was recently discharged from Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales where he was being treated for his injuries.
“What has happened to Jamie and Garry have really put things into perspective,” Westwood said.
On Horrigan’s retirement, he added: “It is tragic news. Garry is a fantastic person and is very well liked by everybody.
“As a player, what you saw was what you got. He was very abrasive, very physical and someone who always led by example. Hopefully he will remain involved with the club because we want to keep someone of his quality.”
Tomorrow night Keys host English giants Newcastle in a re-arranged British & Irish Cup pool game that was postponed because of snow earlier this month.
The Falcons, coached by legendary figure Dean Richards, are unbeaten in 18 competitive games this season.
With a sprinkling of international players, they are destined for a swift return to the Aviva Premiership after their controversial relegation last season which benefited promoted Championship side London Welsh. Westwood wants to show Keys are better than their heavy 52-5 defeat to the Falcons in October’s away pool match at Kingston Park.
“This is an exciting time for us and we head into this game with nothing to lose and everything to gain,” he said.
“We rarely get the chance to tear into quality opposition of the calibre of Newcastle’s strength and spending power.
“The next few weeks will define our season with big games approaching in the league and Swalec Cup and we hope to head into them after a good performance against Newcastle.”