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Captaincy prevented Warburton from playing


'Would I still be playing if I wasn't captain? If I'm being brutally honest the answer might be yes'

Former Wales and British and Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton has admitted that he could still be playing professional rugby if he had not captained his country for seven years.

The 79-test flanker was forced into retirement last year at the age of 29 as a result of an extraordinary number of injuries sustained over his nine-year professional career.

Speaking to BBC Wales, Warburton revealed that if he had not taken over the Welsh captaincy duties in 2011 at just 22-years-old, which resulted in him leading his side for a record 49 times, then he could still be playing.

“Would I still be playing if I wasn’t captain? If I’m being brutally honest the answer might be yes,” he said.

“Because the toll physically has been huge, but mentally it’s probably just as big.”

Warburton spoke of the disappointment he felt when informing Wales head coach Warren Gatland of his decision to step away from the game.

“Deciding to retire was the easy thing, the hardest thing was letting people know because I felt I was letting so many people down.

“I was so physically and emotionally drained in my career I just didn’t have the emotional energy to keep going.

“Having to tell Warren Gatland felt like I was letting him down badly.”

Warburton’s tenure as captain of both Wales and the British and Irish Lions saw both sides enjoy some of the most successful periods in recent history.

As skipper of the Lions, he led them to a series victory in Australia in 2013 – their first in 16 years – followed by a series draw against New Zealand four years later.

Wales went on to visit the semi-finals for just the second time ever at the 2011 World Cup under the stewardship of Warburton, while also claiming back-to-back Six Nations titles in 2012-13, which included a Grand Slam title in Warburton’s first campaign as Welsh captain.

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'Would I still be playing if I wasn't captain? If I'm being brutally honest the answer might be yes'
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