Ex-Wales skipper Sam Warburton has revealed the moment that sparked a strong urge of making a return to the Welsh squad.
The two-time captain of the British and Irish Lions shocked the rugby fraternity when he announced his retirement from professional rugby last July at the age of 29, with the 79-test veteran citing his body’s inability to take anymore punishment.
Since quitting the sport, Warburton has working as a pundit for various broadcasters such as the BBC, BT Sport, Premier Sports and ITV.
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However, it was while he was working for Channel 4 during a Wales World Cup warm-up match earlier this year that the 31-year-old felt a powerful desire to return to the test rugby scene.
“This time with Channel 4, we actually were on pitchside. Suddenly the boys were all around me, all my ex-teammates and coaches and the thrills and noises and smells all came flooding back,” Warburton told the Daily Telegraph.
“I looked at them and thought ‘I should be there’. It was a feeling so powerful that it took my breath away.”
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Shortly afterwards, Warburton then fielded a call from new Wales head coach Wayne Pivac to see how interested the former Cardiff Blues star would be in coming on board with his side.
“I don’t think Wayne knew what I was feeling. I mean, he can’t have, because I hadn’t even told my agent,” Warburton said.
“He only wanted some feedback and I was providing it nicely enough when I just went off on one, saying ‘I’d do this and that’ etc’ – and before I knew it, he was saying ‘Let’s have another meeting’.
“The next time, he asked me on board and I was overjoyed. I don’t want to sound naff, but I was euphoric, as if I was answering my calling.
“I loved doing TV, but I realised that I was only scratching the surface of my knowledge. There’s so much more I can give back that would be going to waste otherwise.
“When it was announced I was joining the Welsh coaching staff I heard a guy on the radio saying it was ‘a big surprise’ and I was like ‘too right, mate!’
“If you’d told me even a few months before I would have said ‘no, way; no way on earth’. I was done.”
Pivac subsequently recruited Warburton as a technical advisor at the breakdown and defence, which has been heralded by some as a masterstroke appointment.
He will work with the squad on a campaign-by-campaign basis, and began his tenure with the squad last month for Wales’ clash against the Barbarians, the first match under the stewardship of Pivac.
Warburton joins new defence coach Byron Hayward, Stephen Jones, Jonathan Humphreys and Neil Jenkins in Pivac’s backroom staff.
“This role is ideal because it’s only five or six months a year and not the 11 months a year if you are a regional coach or with one of the big England teams,” Warburton said.
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