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All Blacks great Samuel Whitelock announces retirement from professional rugby

All Blacks great Samuel Whitelock announces retirement from professional rugby

NZRUApril 3, 2024

All Blacks great Samuel Whitelock announces retirement from professional rugby

Samuel Whitelock has announced he will retire from all professional rugby at the end of the current club season in France where he is playing for Pau.

The 35-year-old has called time on an illustrious professional career that started with Canterbury in 2008 and saw him become the most-capped All Black in history, winning two Rugby World Cups and multiple other titles along the way.

While he feels more than capable of his ability to continue playing at the top level, Whitelock has decided that after 17 years of dedication to his profession, he would like to focus on other areas in his life.   

“I’ve been having a few conversations with my wife Hannah and the kids around what the future looks like for us. And it’s time to finish the playing chapter of rugby,” Whitelock said.

“I think if you talk to anyone who has played for a long time, that desire [to compete] never leaves, it’s just that stage of life when you move on.

“It’s not a decision that we have come to lightly, but it’s the right thing for myself and it’s the right thing for my wife and our three kids - Fred, Iris and Penelope.

“And I think that is what excites me the most – spending more time with my kids and my wife, and actually watching them play sport. Being able to go to the cross-country at school and those things.

“It’s hard to thank everyone, but obviously Hannah has been a massive part along with my parents, brothers, cousins, uncles, aunties and grandparents. And also the fans in general, they’ve been so receptive of myself and also the way I play.

“I’m very appreciative of the support I’ve had and there is no way I could have achieved the things I’ve had without them.”

Whitelock was the youngest All Black to reach 100 Tests and the quickest in the world to achieve the milestone. By the end of 2023 he had played 153 Test matches and sits second on the all-time list of most-capped internationals.

“The thing I’m proud of is that I never really counted Test matches – I always wanted to make the Test matches count,” said Whitelock. “So if it was my last one, I wanted to be able to walk away and say ‘I gave it everything, I didn’t hold anything back.’ I was fully committed.”

Whitelock’s gratitude also extends to all of the coaches, support staff and administrators that made his time in professional rugby an enjoyable one.

"Sam has been one of the most influential players of his generation,” said New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Mark Robinson. “His long list of accolades tell a pretty special story, but he has also made a very big impact off the field during his 14 years as an All Black.

"He cares greatly about the legacy of the All Blacks and everyone involved in it. He's been a sounding board for numerous players, coaches, administrators and others involved in this great game of ours.

"We wish him well in his retirement and the next phase of his life. And while he's hanging up his boots, we know he'll stay involved in rugby one way or another in the future."

All Blacks Head Coach Scott Robertson added: "Sam is an immortal of our incredible game.

“First and foremost, he is a quality person. A great husband and father who has a special ability to build deep connections with people from all walks of life.  

“In terms of his rugby, Sam’s impact has been immense both mentally and physically over four World Cup cycles. He is a winner who rose to any occasion as his competitive spirit drove him to the highest level of performance.

“Sam will stand with the greats of our game.”

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