Sam Warburton retires: A look back at his legendary rugby career

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Cardiff boy Sam Warburton has retired from rugby at the height of his career. The Whitchurch high school flanker last played in the third British and Irish Lions test in 2017, ending his unbeaten two Lions tours as Captain.

Sam is widely regarded as one of the most hard-working, eloquent and professional rugby players, winning admirers as captain of Wales and the British and Irish Lions.

While retiring at 29 may sound like a dream to many, he does so with a catalogue of injuries which he has been unable to overcome.

Having had an exceptionally successful career, he will probably be best remembered as the man who led the British and Irish Lions as captain on two unbeaten tours: a 2-1 series win in Australia in 2013, followed by a dramatic drawn 1-1 series with New Zealand four years later.

Sam shares the Lions series trophy with New Zealand’s Kieran Read – Image by Getty

In addition to his Lions success, he spent over 10 years with his hometown club, Cardiff Blues, played 74 times for Wales – 49 as captain, a Welsh rugby record – and won the 6 nations twice, including one Grand Slam. In 2017, he also received an OBE for services to rugby union.

Warburton’s former regional team, Cardiff Blues, has started a social media campaign for fans to declare their support for his decision. The hashtag is #ThanksWarby / #DiolchWarby.

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. Thanks 😊

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