We look back at ex-Wales and British and Irish Lions captain, Sam Warburton’s most memorable moments from his rugby career.
There are rugby players who’ve played professionally for 15+ years who couldn’t boast the titles, caps and cup wins that Sam Warburton can. Despite retiring at just 29 years-old, Sam has acquired a number of phenomenal accolades; he was a record-breaking Wales captain, twice Lions captain and a Grand Slam winner.
We round up the greatest moments of Sam Warburton’s blistering rugby career.
Cardiff Blues v Toulon, 2010, European Challenge Cup Final, Stade Velodrome
After the Cardiff Blues failed to make it out of the group stage of the Heineken Cup, they were moved into the Challenge Cup knockout stages. Sam enjoyed huge wins against the Newcastle Falcons in the quarter-final, as well as a hard-fought victory against Wasps in the semi-final.
It was the star-studded Toulon side who met the Blues in the final. Sam came off the bench to help secure the title for the Blues and the first European trophy for a Welsh side.
Wales v South Africa, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 1st Pool Match, Wellington NZ
At 22 years and 341 days-old, Sam became the youngest-ever captain in Rugby World Cup history, leading Wales out against South Africa. To boot, Sam put in a heroic shift in defence making 23 of Wales’ 99 tackles with 6 steals.
Despite Sam’s efforts, Wales came out narrow losers in an intense encounter, losing by just a single point: 17-16. However, it was this match in which Sam would be known to the rugby world as a warrior and a leader.
Six Nations Grand Slam, 2012
Although Sam was hounded by injury, he played a pivotal role in bringing the Six Nations Grand Slam to Cardiff. What makes the 2012 Grand Slam even more impressive, is that Wales had to go away to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium and away to England at Twickenham.
Sam managed to get himself fit for the final game of the 2012 campaign against France at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. In doing so, Wales ran out 17-9 winners and Sam proudly lifted the Six Nations trophy aloft.
Wales v England, Six Nations 2013
After the Grand Slam in 2012, the Welsh team were always going to have a hard time replicating that feat. However after an opening weekend loss to Ireland, the Wales team picked themselves up and took it to the last match against old foes England in Cardiff.
Needing to win by a margin of at least 7 points, Wales simply put England two the sword. With Sam leading from the front, Wales ended up annihilating England by 30 points to 3 and picked up back-to-back Six Nations titles for the first time since the late 1970's.
Lions Tour Victory, Australia 2013
At just 24-years-old, Sam became the youngest British & Irish Lions captain ever. After a series of promising warm-up matches, the Lions went into the First Test in high hopes. A late penalty miss from Kurtley Beale meant that the Lions prevailed 23-21 winners and getting off to a perfect start.
In a tense and wet Second Test, with Sam captaining the Lions once more, the Aussies hit back with a nail-biting one-point win, coming out 16-15 winners thanks to a late Adam Ashley-Cooper try. Unfortunately, Sam’s tour was over. After picking up an injury in the Second Test, Sam could only look on as the Lions dealt blow after blow to the Australians coming out convincing 41-16 winners. Sam held the series trophy aloft as the Lions celebrated their first Lions tour victory since 1997.