While there are some players who coast through their careers relatively unscathed, there are those such as Sam Warburton who are not so lucky. Some players just seem to attract injuries – sometimes down to the way they play the game, but other times simply down to misfortune.
Here is a RugbyPass XV of players who have had the most injury-plagued careers:
15. Juan Martin Hernandez
The Argentine magician was forced to retire in 2018 after a knee injury that was the end of a catalogue of problems for the utility back. Revered as one of the most spellbinding players in a game, a back injury for the Sharks in 2009 during the prime of his career – followed by knee surgery – meant he didn’t play for his country again until August 2012.
Honourable mention: Leigh Halfpenny
14. Richard Kahui
The former All Blacks winger may have started the 2011 RWC final, but that would prove to be his 17th and final cap at the age of 26. While it may be the injuries post-2011 that have defined his career, they perhaps gloss over his shoulder problems that came before then as well.
13. Manu Tuilagi
Although it looks as if he may have turned a corner regarding his injury problems, Tuilagi only earned two England caps between 2014 and 2019 (there were also disciplinary issues). Persistent problems with his groin, which even ruled him out of Six Nations matches this year, were what once put the centre’s career in jeopardy.
12. Pat Lambie
It may have been a knee ligament that forced former Springboks international from the field in his final professional game for Racing 92, but that was just the tip of the iceberg for the 56-cap back. Few players have been dogged by concussion as much as the South African, and the troubling symptoms pertaining to multiple head injuries were the ultimate reason behind his early retirement in 2019.
11. Nehe Milner-Skudder
After bursting onto the Test scene in 2015 and starting in the RWC final for the All Blacks, he has only been able to add another five caps since then. The 29-year-old has been blighted by shoulder injuries but is set to make a return in the upcoming Super Rugby Aotearoa for the Highlanders.
10. Jonny Wilkinson
While his career may have been bookended with moments of glory, Wilkinson had some catastrophic injuries sandwiched in between. Despite making a return for the Lions in 2005, it was 1,168 days until Wilkinson would make another appearance for England after kicking the winning drop goal in 2003, enduring some rare and gut-wrenching injuries in that time.
Danny Cipriani was the first name chosen by Josh Raisey when picking this particular England XV https://t.co/OMBdUIFOSV
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 3, 2020
9. Rhys Webb
Although he is fighting fit now, he is a player well acquainted with the surgeon’s table. Having made his Test debut in 2012 for Wales, a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament wrote off much of 2013 for him, a foot injury ruled him out of the 2015 RWC, he underwent ankle surgery in 2016, and a knee problem in 2018 then excluded him from the Six Nations and ended his time with the Ospreys prematurely.
1. Alex Corbisiero
The ex-England and Lions international suffered a string of injuries to his neck, knee and back after moving from London Irish to the Northampton Saints in 2013. He took an extended break from the game in 2016 but has not returned, finishing his career with 31 caps.
Honourable mention: Cian Healy
2. Jerry Flannery
Deprived of a place on the 2009 Lions tour as a result of an elbow injury in pre-tour training, the former Ireland and Munster hooker also missed the majority of the 2011 World Cup with a calf injury. He would not return to the Test arena and was forced to retire in 2012.
3. Martin Castrogiovanni
The former Italy prop did have a 119-cap, 15-year professional career, but the nature of some of his absences were noticeable, namely missing a Six Nations game after being bitten by a dog.
In 2018 @ettasreynecke was admitted to ICU 3 times for 3 different reasons, but it didn't stop him taking up MMA (whilst learning to talk to again)
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 31, 2020
4. Richie Gray
He has endured a terrible run of injuries in recent years, largely to his back and hip which have limited him to just one international appearance in over three years.
5. Paul O’Connell
Given the intensity that the former Munster, Ireland and Lions captain played with, it’s no surprise that he picked up a number of injuries despite amassing 115 caps. His first major setback was a complicated groin problem that wiped out much of his 2010, he then suffered a long-term back issue in 2012 that cast his chances of making the Lions in doubt. He did make that 2013 tour but broke his arm in the first Test. His career ultimately then came to an end at the 2015 RWC when he ripped his hamstring off the bone.
6. Tom Croft
Between 2009 and 2012 the Leicester Tigers, England and Lions flanker was world-class, defined by his trademark pace. He missed almost a year of rugby after the 2012 Six Nations with a neck injury and although he returned for the 2013 Lions tour, he would only play two more games for England – both in the 2015 Six Nations – before retiring in 2017 at the age of 31 with 45 caps.
Honourable mentions: Stephen Ferris, Dan Lydiate
7. Sam Warburton
One of the most high-profile players to be afflicted with a slew of injuries throughout his career, the former Wales and Lions captain retired in 2018 at the age of 29. The 79-cap international’s injury list is a harrowing read, covering his ankle, both knees, shoulders, head injuries and many more.
Honourable mention: Tom Rees
8. David Pocock/Sean O’Brien
The fact that there is a host of loose forwards who could make this team suggests the demands of the position, but Pocock and O’Brien must be mailed in somewhere. Both are capable of playing across the back row and simply undroppable when fit, but the haul of only 78 caps for the Australian and 61 for the Irishman shows how injury deprived them of many more.
Honourable mentions: Warren Whiteley, Billy Vunipola
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