Sam Warburton hangs up his boots

18 July 2018, 18:38 | Updated: 18 July 2018, 18:39

Sam Warburton

The back row forward has not played since captaining the Lions to a third Test draw against New Zealand in the summer of 2017.

Warburton has been back in training this summer after neck and knee surgery but has now decided to announce the end of his playing career.

"Unfortunately, after a long period of rest and rehabilitation, the decision to retire from rugby has been made with my health and well-being 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, 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."

Warburton has enjoyed a glittering career and captained Wales on a record 49 occasions, leading them to a Grand Slam in 2012 and captaining the side at two World Cups.

He will also go down in history as the most successful British & Irish Lions captain of all time.

The Lions claimed a first Test series victory in 16 years when Warburton led them to victory over Australia in 2013, and he then became just the second man to captain the Lions on two tours, as they earned an historic series draw against the All Blacks last year.

Warburton has spent his entire career with the Cardiff Blues and won the Challenge Cup with them in 2010.

Warburton added: "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, to 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 (Wales and Lions coach) 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.

"To my amazing wife Rachel and my close family and friends who have endured the emotional rollercoaster of my 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, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for all your support. 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."