All Black great Sam Whitelock to retire at end of French club season: Federation

golf02 April 2024 12:00| © AFP
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Sam Whitelock @ Getty Images

Sam Whitelock, the most capped player in All Blacks history, will retire from professional rugby at the end of the current club season in France, his federation announced on Tuesday.

Whitelock, a 35-year-old lock, played 153 times for New Zealand and won two World Cups.

He joined Pau in France's Top 14 on a two-year contract after New Zealand were beaten by a single point by South Africa in the World Cup final last year.

Whitelock started the final on the bench but came on in the 55th minute.

The announcement he is retiring will put an end to speculation that new All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson had approached him about making a return to test rugby this year.

"I've been having a few conversations with my wife Hannah and the kids around what the future looks like for us. And it's time to finish the playing chapter of rugby," Whitelock said in an All Blacks statement.

"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.

"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."

Whitelock won his first test cap in 2010 against Ireland and was the youngest All Black to play in 100 tests and the quickest in the world to achieve the milestone.

His overall appearance record places him second only to Alun Wyn Jones of Wales on the all-time list of most-capped internationals.

Robertson said: "Sam is an immortal of our incredible game.

"First and foremost, he is a quality person. 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."

He also played 180 times for the Crusaders, winning seven Super Rugby titles during his time at the club.

At international level, he won 11 Tri Nations/Rugby Championship titles and was involved in 14 straight seasons where the All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup.

Whitelock also played five tests together with his younger brother Luke, who is now his teammate at Pau.

Another brother, George, played one test for the All Blacks in 2009.