Sam Warburton has retired from rugby aged 29
He has not played since leading the 2017 Lions to a drawn series in New Zealand
Sam Warburton has announced his retirement from playing rugby union. Photograph: Getty Images
Sam Warburton, the British and Irish Lions captain for the last two tours, has confirmed his immediate retirement from all forms of rugby.
The shock announcement has handed Wales a huge blow before next year’s World Cup and will leave the head coach, Warren Gatland, without one of his best players for the tournament in Japan.
Warburton captained the Lions to an historic 1-1 Test series draw in New Zealand in the summer of 2017, but missed the whole of last season due to injury.
In that time he underwent neck and then knee surgery in a bid to return to full fitness, but the 29-year-old feels he has been unable to return to his best form. It means he has now decided to call time on his illustrious career.
“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,” Warburton said. “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. They 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, I always dreamed of playing for my hometown club the Cardiff Blues, Wales and the British & 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 school teachers, 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.”
Capped 74 times by Wales and a further five by the British and Irish Lions, Warburton led his country a record 49 times.
He has been involved in pre-season training with Cardiff Blues in recent weeks, but his career is now at an end.
Warburton will go down as one of the best Welsh players in history and bows out with a glittering CV that includes leading Wales to Grand Slam and Six Nations glory as well as to two Rugby World Cups.
Wales and Lions coach Warren Gatland said it was “hugely disappointing news”.
“He is an outstanding rugby player and he has brought so much to the game on and off the pitch,” Gatland added. “His leadership, attitude and demeanour along with his performances have placed Sam up there as one of the best and most respected players in the world.
“He finishes with a record that he should be extremely proud of and should look back on his career with huge pride.”