All Blacks great Sam Whitelock decides time is right to retire

All Blacks great Sam Whitelock decides time is right to retire

New Zealand rugby legend Sam Whitelock has announced that he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the current Top 14 season.

The double Rugby World Cup-winning lock hangs up his boots as the second most capped men's international of all-time, behind only Alun Wyn Jones, and as the most capped All Black.

The second-rower was reportedly being courted by All Blacks boss Scott Robertson over a potential return to New Zealand to resume his Test career but has instead opted to bring the curtain down on his illustrious career with Pau in France.

"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 in a statement from New Zealand Rugby.

"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 enjoyed a trophy-laden career, which started in 2008 when he helped the New Zealand U20s clinch the inaugural Junior World Championship.

He made his Crusaders debut in 2010 and would go on to play 180 times for the Canterbury-based side, winning seven Super Rugby titles during his time with the club.

He earned his Test debut for the All Blacks against Ireland in New Plymouth in 2010 and became the youngest All Black to reach 100 Tests and the quickest in the world to achieve the milestone.

By the time he had played his 153rd and final Test match for the All Blacks - the 2023 Rugby World Cup defeat to South Africa - Whitelock had won two World Cups (2011 and 2015), 11 Tri Nations/Rugby Championship titles and 14 Bledisloe Cups.

An 18 time All Blacks captain, Whitelock recorded 125 wins in his 153 Tests with 22 losses and six draws.

"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."

All Blacks head coach 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."