Sam Warburton has called time on his rugby-playing career at the age of 29 after an injury-strewn 12 months.
The Wales captain has yet to play since leading the British & Irish Lions to a series draw against the All Blacks in the 2017 tour.
The flanker cited his battered body was ‘unable’ to return him to the levels required to continue his career as he battled back from a neck and knee injury, and his illustrious career has also been blighted by a persistent shoulder problem. Despite returning to training early this summer, Warburton conceded his long-term health was a more pressing matter.
The Cardiff Blues captain revealed via a club statement: “Unfortunately, after a long period of rest and rehabilitation the decision to retire from rugby has been made with my health and wellbeing as a priority as my body is unable to give me back what I had hoped for on my return to training.”
“I cannot thank the Welsh Rugby Union and Cardiff Blues enough, who have gone beyond the call of duty, in providing the support I received to help me get back on the field, for which I will be forever grateful.
“Since I first played aged 10 at Llanishen Fach Primary School, then Whitchurch High School and Rhiwbina Juniors RFC, I always dreamed of playing for my hometown club the Cardiff Blues, Wales and the British and Irish Lions. To look back on my career, I’m extremely proud of what I managed to achieve. There are so many people who helped me along the way from schoolteachers, coaches, friends and family. I thank you so much for supporting my dreams and aspirations. I hope they too can take some pride from my career.
“I would like the make special mention of Warren Gatland. Without the faith he had in me and his unwavering support I would never have had the career I was able to pursue.
“Countless people work behind the scenes in professional rugby but I would like to thank to the fantastic medical teams at both WRU and Cardiff Blues who have looked after me throughout my career.
“To my amazing wife Rachel and my close family and friends who have endured the emotional rollercoaster of playing professional rugby, I am so lucky to have such a fantastic support network and loving family to help me get through all the testing times.
“Lastly, to all the many fans, with whom I’ve shared some fantastic memories with, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for all your support. From providing a random hug in a supermarket, or simply offering words of support and encouragement, to hearing a cheer after my name was announced at the national stadium, you are what makes playing professional rugby so special and such a privilege. It’s been an absolute pleasure to represent you all and an honour I’ll sorely miss.
“As one chapter finishes, another begins, which I’ll enter with the same level of passion and determination as the last.”
Capped 74 times by Wales, Warburton led his country a record 49 times including at two Rugby World Cups. His time in a red shirt delivered a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2012 and forged a back row that will go down in the annals of Welsh rugby as one of the most formidable: Lydiate, Warburton and Faletau.
Warburton will go down in history as the most successful British & Irish Lions captains of all time. Last year he became only the second man to captain the Lions on two tours as he led the famous touring team to New Zealand, repeating the honour he first undertook in 2013 in Australia.
With five Lions Test caps to his name, Warburton was picked as tour captain in 2013 over Irish stars Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll.
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