Gloucester have announced that their captain Jim Hamilton will leave Kingsholm at the end of this season and move to France.
The 30-year-old Scotland international lock will take up a contract with an undisclosed French club. Gloucester say they have received a financial settlement to compensate them for the final year of Hamilton's contract with them.
"The time I've spent at Gloucester has been the best of my career," he said. "It has been an honour and a privilege to wear the Cherry and White shirt, to represent the city and the supporters and, of course, to captain the side."
He added: "However, the offer from France is simply the opportunity of a lifetime and one that I just couldn't ignore. It's a great move for myself and for my family. I hope everyone will understand that.
"Nigel Davies (Gloucester rugby director) and the club have been terrific about it, and I can't thank them enough for that.
"When the time comes, I will leave Gloucester with a heavy heart. I have made friends for life here, it has been a special place to play my rugby and I wouldn't have left to join another English club side. I am fully committed to this season being one of real success for Gloucester, and I hope to bow out on a high."
Hamilton joined Gloucester from Edinburgh in 2010. He previously played for Leicester and has won 41 Test caps.
Davies admitted that the financial clout currently enjoyed by France's Top 14 clubs had surfaced.
"It is a fact of life in the modern game that the French sides currently have much bigger playing budgets than their English counterparts," he said. "Jim is a fine player, an experienced international, and has been a big part of what we've achieved so far this season.
"However, the offer is significant, and it would be wrong of us to try and stand in Jim's way. It's a massive opportunity for him. We don't want to lose him, and he is aware of that. We are not the first team to lose a player this way. We won't be the last."
- Sports & Recreation
- Gloucester rugby