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Sam Whitelock ends All Blacks return talk by announcing retirement

By Josh Raisey
Samuel Whitelock of New Zealand acknowledges the fans after making his Record Breaking 149th Appearance for the New Zealand All Blacks, overtaking former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw (not pictured), during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between New Zealand and Italy at Parc Olympique on September 29, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Double World Cup winner and the All Blacks‘ most capped player Sam Whitelock has put an end to any speculation linking him with a return to international rugby by announcing his retirement at the end of the season.

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The 153-cap international joined Top 14 outfit Pau after the World Cup last year on a two-year deal, but new All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson had reportedly approached him about making a Test return this year.

But the All Blacks confirmed on Tuesday that the 35-year-old will instead retire at the end of the current campaign in France.

It will bring to an end a career that saw him record 125 Test wins after making his debut in 2010, compete in four World Cups (winning the Webb Ellis Cup in 2011 and 2015), win eleven Rugby Championships, and captain his country on 18 occasions.

“I’ve been having a few conversations with my wife Hannah and the kids around what the future looks like for us,” the lock said.

“And it’s time to finish the playing chapter of 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.

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“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.”

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.

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“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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