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Warburton calls time on illustrious career

Warburton calls time on illustrious career

Two-time Tour captain Sam Warburton has announced his retirement from rugby, bringing to an end one of the most successful careers in British & Irish Lions history.

Warburton has reluctantly called time on his career having come to the conclusion that his body would no longer allow him to perform at his very best.

The 29-year-old finished an a high by captaining the Lions to a dramatic series draw in New Zealand in the summer of 2017, four years after leading a winning Tour in Australia.

Warburton has also captained Wales on a record 49 occasions, leading his country to a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2013 and playing a key role in their Championship success the following year.

He has today released a statement outlining the reasons he has opted not to continue playing.

He said: “Unfortunately, after a long period of rest and rehabilitation, I know my body well enough to know that I won’t be able to perform at the level I demand of myself.

“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 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 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.

The captain paid tribute to all who supported him throughout his career, including Lions and Wales Head Coach, Warren Gatland and the fans.

“I would like to 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 make special thanks to the fantastic medical teams at both Cardiff Blues and WRU 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, who 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.

Warren Gatland, who made Warburton captain of Wales aged just 22 and also selected him to lead the 2013 and 2017 Lions Tours, said that he should be ‘extremely proud’.

He told the WRU: “It is hugely disappointing that Sam has retired from the game. He is an outstanding rugby player and he has brought so much to the game on and off the pitch. 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.

“In a Test career full of great moments, one in particular sticks in my mind. His captaincy in the third test for the Lions in New Zealand, in a game finely balanced and potentially historic, was exemplary. The New Zealand media were mightily impressed by him, and rightly so.

“I hope he can take the time to reflect on a magnificent career and I hope he gets as much pleasure from whatever he does next as he has brought to the people of Wales and the wider rugby public.”

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